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Who is Hollywood Kidding? Online Piracy, Hollywood and Global Poverty

I was told I should be ashamed of downloading absolutely every movie I watch because I was financing international drug and prostitution rings (and worse terror networks), and had very low moral standards by a relative who works in marketing and distribution at Hollywood. I laughed at Hollywood complaining about moral standards, I mean, sure, they would rather I spend my money on their movies so they in turn can spend it on drugs and prostitution at leisure, than putting it directly in the criminal networks’ pockets, but then I download my movies on peer-2-peer networks involving no financial transaction.

Anyway, what should he expect from a guy his college buddies called King Bootleg for buying everything on the block across from Concourse Plaza in the Bronx?

However wadded in industry morality my relative might be, he does have a point, but it goes way beyond streaming Les Miserables or cutting into Metallica’s profits.

Most First World online pirates such as myself, are not champion hackers such as Aaron Schwartz, on, in my opinion, a perfectly justified crusade against intellectual monopolies, but people who don’t wanna wait for the DVD to tell us how Ted met his wife, and are not interested in paying full price for another Final Destination (if you read this and you happen to own the Final Destination franchise, please don’t take it personal I love your movies, I do, I really, really do), or yet another clone of Matrix, Gladiator, or Lord of the Rings.

It helped that said relative argued against more quality in Hollywood productions, because as long as people pay to see Battleship, they will keep making Battleships. Thanks I know exactly what to do now.

Again, most of us are benign pirates, the Pirate Bay kind rather than the Sword-in-tooth kind, but there is a truth to the drug and prostitution (and terror) network connection, but it has more to do with global poverty than online piracy.

A-    The phenomenon is neither new, nor a First World problem

Drug and prostitution networks’ financial growth in relation to piracy, has much less to do with First World illegal downloading, than commercialization of bootleg DVDs in developing countries, mostly in Asia and Africa.

The impression you are given is that this is a new phenomenon, it would appear that way because television networks and radios are likely to advertise it more since they also suffer a loss in relation to the duplication of products they pay to commercialize and distribute, but drug and prostitution networks also run or are involved in the industry of counterfeit products ranging from fake polo sweaters, to Louis Vuitton bags, to fake Addidas socks sold across the street from the Addidas shoe store. Bootleg DVDs and CDs are only a new outlet for illegal networks to benefit from, but this benefit is not in the cloud, it is connected to very real development preconditions that allow the networks to flourish, and force people to purchase counterfeit products rather than originals. Which leads us to the next point.

B-    The high cost of commodities

Pursuing from point A is very straightforward, the street markets in Asia and Africa are often the only means for the vast majority of the population to purchase goods that are equivalent in quality, or close enough, to products enjoyed matter-of-factly in the West, which they cannot afford from super market chains in their own cities. To make it simple: if people can’t afford a pair of socks how likely are they to go see the third rendition of the same Avatar movie at 15$ a ticket with a family of six not including popcorn? Bootleg DVDs are the only access they have to entertainment we take for granted, and even at our level, are unwilling to pay for.

That’s if there is a movie theater in their country to begin with. And even these poor people, who are unwittingly funding terror networks (which is naïve, everybody knows who is who in small communities, and they know exactly where the money is going) are not purchasing mass quantities of DVDs but one that they watch with ten of their friends around the one DVD player they own. It is a booming commercial sector, or criminal networks wouldn’t benefit from it, but they would benefit less if films cost less, and if the infrastructure were available locally.

C-Competition and markets

Criminal markets focusing on counterfeit products have it easy in Asia and Africa because intellectual property laws, or lack thereof give them free rein to run their business as they see fit. However, these countries, China notoriously, have booming cinematographic industries of their own (I am of the opinion that South Korean cinema is the best in the world today), and could do without Hollywood’s predominance. It is unlikely they are going to change intellectual property laws anytime soon, especially since it allows them to use, and produce generic alternatives to products owned, labeled and patented by foreign companies. If medicine were more equitably distributed maybe Hollywood wouldn’t lose out so much, who knows?

In the meantime Indian movies and Chinese movies enjoy priority access to their own markets, gain international visibility, end up pirated by guys like me, but ultimately, they will have made a return on their investment and penetrated western markets with movies that are a welcome change from yet another Battleship.

If you look at African cinema and the lack of access to distribution networks and infrastructure allowing promoting films across the continent; African films, unless they win a contest and are showcased as the African Tarantino (Viva Riva) you’ll never see them, except at a festival. It is telling that the first runner-up to Viva Riva was a Ghanaian film about domestic violence in Africa, you can only order it online; it isn’t sold in major outlets, and if it is at twice the price of a regular DVD (Virgin Megastore-I live in Europe Virgin still goes ok over here, sickly but ok), and is of course unavailable at extratorrents.com. I will never see it, and neither will you, it’s probably the first time you’ve heard of it.

So while it is true that online piracy affects Hollywood and the music industry, it is not the moral downward spiral that you are sold on TV, you are not the person targeted when in a movie shot in Cambodia, a father searching for his kidnapped wife thrashes a bootleg DVD stand calling the guy a criminal (Trade of Innocents with Mira Sorvino, later on they show the same guy, indeed in cahoots with the trafficking gang).

There is a reality to the problem, but it will not end with criminalizing Aaron Schwartz, it will not end with criminalizing Kim DotCom rather than banking on his business model. If Hollywood wants to stay relevant it is, as an industry, gonna have to realize that their monopoly days are over, that technology doesn’t trump quality, and that unless they change their business model from a luxury oriented, exclusive product to an affordable, accessible commodity, they have lost the fight. It’s gonna mean less astronomical budgets, less high flying salaries, and, yes, less drugs and prostitution at Hollywood’s notorious extravaganzas, but what is all that in the name of better, cheaper art?

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Hell or High Water

Image

 

They still talk about the storms…

 

The bleak landscape stretching behind had nothing on the thunderclouds looming ahead, and in another few minutes’ darknesses would collide. Ari recalled a vague saying about unstoppable forces and unmovable objects. In his experience there was no such thing: everything moved eventually, and everything could be shaken, torn off and ripped to shreds. As for unstoppable forces, well, they stopped too, eventually, and when they did, they left nothing unmoved. He shook his head wondering what unobservant idiot, would come up with something so silly. Adi, as if to prove a silent point, had not moved.

In a few minutes it would not matter, in a few minutes the storm would start, and in a few months, winter.

The Moles were doing a good job, or so they said. The tunnels were nearing completion; and the caves would offer a luxury undreamed of on the surface, or so they said. Few dreamed anymore, neural synapses would fire at night same as usual, but you cannot dream if you do not have a past, you cannot dream if you cannot bring the future to life, when tomorrow is another whirlwind, and the future an endless field of ice…such are not dreams, but fantasies in the void, and in the void there is terror.

 

Only the Fish truly dreamed…Neptune have mercy on their souls.

 

“We have been tried by Water and tried by Ice.

“We have been carved by its shards, and molded by its flows

“As Neptune’s tribulations pass, the power of Hades grows.”

Knowing that the Time of Neptune, that The Age of Aquarius would come to pass, revealing Hades in all of his glory, ushering in The Return to the Cave, to the comfort before humanity wandered into the light and was blinded to reason by the sun, was little comfort for the disdainful looks of the Moles from across the aisle.  Their time was close, and they knew it. One day, soon now, Hell will freeze over, and it will be their turn to rule, in Hades’ Glory.  Still, the scriptures could not mute the snickering, and even the vision of Hell, stretching endlessly outside the church window, could not quiet their heckling.

The Priest was formal; and the Blank Book of Scriptures, its pages untainted and its message clear and unequivocal. Millions of years past, a man shaped demon named Plato, son of the Scion of Hell, the wretched Socrates, had led to fore an Age of Reason, dragging Man from the comfort of the Cave, and into the blinding lights of Hell.

Upon the surface, man had first experienced the Time of Mars, when wars wrecked the world under the fear of the great cloud. Billions had perished as Hell shaped itself at Man’s pleasure, over tens of thousands of years. Then came the Time of Hermes, and for a time Man flourished, striking a balance between its aspirations and Hell. In the Time of Narcissus, Man had forgotten his humble beginnings and the comfort of the Cave, and sought his own reflection in the light, his mirror image in Hell. The Time of Neptune had cleansed the world, and Hades would lead us back to the Cave.

  

 

 

Ari shook himself awake, and for a few seconds, the world merged with the dream before washing it away. Those early moments, growing longer by the day, threatened to rip his sanity apart, and the dreams grew more vivid, with each passing night the fragile balance grew more delicate, one day he knew, like all the other Fish before him, reality would merge with the Dream, and the Dream would win.

“Ari, Ari…”

Jonah had grown accustomed to the dull look in his son’s eyes, and the light that grew slowly, alerting him to his son’s return, just as he had grown accustomed to that same look in his father’s eyes, when he was too young to understand himself, long before Ari grew accustomed to, recognized, and finally understood, that same look in his own. All the Fish Dream Fish Dreams.

“Ari…”

Stepping into life from the Dream was as much a loss as a victory; there was comfort in the Dream, perhaps the comfort of the Cave. Perhaps. Fish were chosen after all, chosen to rule the Age of Aquarius, and had for five hundred years, who else would dream of the Cave and know it in their souls?

Ari’s sharp intake of air, and sudden bolt upright brought light back to his eyes. He looked around, weighing up his surroundings, making sense of reality as he knew it before going to sleep, before he dreamed.  

“Father.”

His voice was firm, his grip solid. He shouldn’t dream so young, not with such intensity, but he was one of a generation who sought out glory, sought ever deeper depths, ever darker crevasses, ever more dangerous valleys and canyons and towers. A generation for whom the darkness beneath, the endless echo of whale song, was the melody of the Cave, and the enticing murmur of Hades.  

“You’re awake. Good. Your mother left you some food on the table. We must make the coast before the storm, and we will have to stay longer beneath.”

Ari sensed the tension in Jonah’s voice.

“It’s fine father”, he reassured him, “once we’re under we can wait out the storm, we’ll be needed once it has passed.”

Jonah did not respond. Instead he stared out the window to the cliffs and the thunderclouds creeping over the ocean. He turned and stepped through the doorway.

“The storm is a harbinger son, and winter is but weeks away…”

“I know father.” He looked up, but Jonah had left the room.

The Moles had started work early. A storm could lie weeks of work to waste in a matter of minutes and last for days.  There was a time when the Fish would have exerted unimaginable violence had the Moles failed in their task, and suffered setbacks in the Divine Undertaking.  Those times were no more, and those times would change forever, unless the Dream took over the last remaining Fish before the Moles could find their vengeance.

Ari looked down to the other Fish waiting for his father by the cliff, only a few had shaken themselves awake but he saw Adi looking over the edge to the ocean, turning her back to it, spreading her arms wide and leaning back, bending backwards over the edge as if about to dive. 

A stone hit him in the shoulder, a young Mole stood there, grinning. Times had changed. As the Divine Undertaking progressed, and the Dream took ever-larger numbers of Fish over the edge, the balance of power had shifted, and respect for the Fish was lost, now they served only a purpose, and that purpose would not last.

His father reached out and patted him on the shoulder. Let it be, his expression told him, let it be

He reached the cliff quietly, and sidled over to Adi. Caught in the rising winds behind her, and the crash of the waves hundreds of feet below, she did not hear him place a hand behind her back before pushing her forward.

“Aaaaaa! Ri….”

Her eyes bulged into reality, he realized then that the Dream was taking over Adi much faster than it did him, and that one day, he would not be there on time to tease her, no one would stop her fall.

“We’re up for a few days it sounds like.” She said matter-of-factly. Her left eye still bore a small scar below it, an acid burn from a poisoned tentacle. It had seemed trivial at the time; she had barely survived the poisoning.

Ari nodded. Adi laughed. She loved the depths, their darks and unexpected poisonous glows, and the whisper of giant beings, Neptune’s titanic children where once Jonah had slept and brought forth the truth of the Cave and the Divine Undertaking.

It took fifteen minutes for the rest of the Fish to gather over the cliff. Once they were equipped with their suits, propulsion engines, food and energy packs, and oxygen-recyclers shaped as a fin on their backs, they resembled the creature they were named after, although their name reflected their purpose rather than their style. Fish dove and swam, Moles dug and burrowed.

There was a time when there would have been a crowd gathered to see them off, there was a time when there was hope, but as the Time of Neptune grew longer, the storms stronger, the winters harsh and unpredictable, the ice encroaching over more land each year, and the Dream taking away sanity, authority, respect and lives, those numbers had dwindled, as had the number of Fish, just as the fish in the ocean had, hundreds of years before.

Jonah stood atop a stone, addressing his audience:

“Morning! You’ve all shaken yourselves out; get ready to stay that way! You ain’t blind! You can see it coming just as I do! In all things the mission comes first! I have split you into two teams; David will sort you out, and tell you where to go! We have two objectives: fuel for the water filters, and power sources for the Divine Undertaking! The Moles have given me very specific directions as to the kind of power sources they require, so be careful! You know the works! Keep your Com units on, communicate findings to each other as necessary!”

Adi raised a hand.

“Jonah! This is not a storm, I mean it is, of course it is, but… this feels like winter.”

“Don’t be silly Adi, winter is not for a few months, until then, we have to gather as much fuel as we can. The storm will last more than a few days, bet your life on it, and we may have to travel quite far, save up on your food and energy packs.” He paused to stare back at the clouds. ”Just to be safe, keep your eyes open for unusually cold currents and signs of early icing on the way back north. We won’t be much use to anybody if we’re trapped under…David?”

David stepped up to the stone, dividing the Fish into two groups. Ari sent to gather fuel, Adi, autonomous power sources. The Fish lined up along the cliff, and one after the other, in intervals of twenty seconds, leaped off the cliff, as if daring the incoming juggernaut, and kissed the waves, to the dark and glowing depths below….

 

The waters retreated after less than a hundred years, and people thought they could reclaim the land for themselves. The waters were only the early sign of a cataclysm that would unfold over five centuries, relentlessly hacking away at humanity and civilization.

After the waters withdrew, the tides grew, stronger, longer, fiercer, salinizing land way beyond the initial rise, polluting fresh water sources and river ways far inland, destroying crops, rendering swaths of arable land the size of small countries unproductive for food or pasture.

The first riots erupted in urban areas all over the globe. Towns and cities were suddenly disconnected from the gossamer thin networks that sustained the modern way of life, power shortages affected electricity, electricity affected food storage and water, and famine drove people mad.

In the countryside, arable landowners organized themselves in militias, nations within nations, states within states, with power of life and death over starved populations. This lasted only so long as weapons were kept out of the hands of the hungry masses, and meanwhile, the tides kept growing. The endless cycle of melting ice, rising water and torrential rains, gave birth to super storms and super cyclones such as the early 21st century had witnessed only the burgeoning.  

Few communities managed to survive in isolation, holding on to bits of technology, literature and art as they could save them, retreating ever further on themselves, ever further higher and inland, as the storms grew stronger, as the winters grew longer, and days and weeks went by without seeing the sun. And with the storms the waters rose again, the tides marking news boundaries to oceans and seas, where cities and sewers, nuclear power plants, factories and waste yards were built, where chemical weapons were developed and tried, where the slow poison of humanity’s reason wrecked eternal damage, regurgitating bile into the waters where monsters grew, life changed, and the water, and all that it touched, decayed.

In this chaos, a new order was constructed. Earning from the mistakes of the past a new understanding of its mortality, and near frantically obsessed with survival, casts were established among the survivors. The Priests spoke of the Time of Hades to come, the Time of Neptune now upon us and the Divine Undertaking which every living member of society was to contribute to, and of this spiritual re-awakening two casts were given significant importance: the Fish, and the Moles.

Fresh water, the ability to filter water, was the difference between life and death for the community. Ensuring the community’s survival, in the near ascetic isolation, in the absence of evidence of other communities of Man, became ensuring the survival of Man, and it’s kind, and thus the Divine Undertaking came about, and Man’s return to the warm embrace of the Cave from whilst it came.

The Fish dared the depths of the seas, for weeks and months at a time, through towns and cities long submerged, exposing themselves to unknown amounts of radiation and chemical pollutants over generations, salvaging materials for construction and most importantly securing power sources for the water filters and storage units, and increasingly for machinery towards the Divine Undertaking.

The Moles at first composed of the criminals and rejects from the community, dug, and burrowed, and dug and burrowed, first under the whip and tyranny of the Fish, but as the winters grew in malevolence, and the ice threatened salvation, and Fish’s successful missions grew poorer and longer in between, the Moles found new prominence.

The Divine Undertaking was an attempt to return to existence as it was intended for Man before Plato and Reason ruined the world. A network of connecting caves and tunnels was to become the final resting place of a repenting humanity, the sum of the knowledge it had preserved, once the Ice sealed Neptune’s fate, Hell froze over, and Hades rose.

And the Fish were going insane…

 

Adi had been wrong, it was not winter yet, not quite, and the storm had lasted only fourteen days.  Every time they dove the cities and towers changed, where the ice had retreated, entire areas were laid to waste, and each year, more of the seas stayed trapped under ice.

You could not blame Adi for her care, sudden onsets of winter had caught and trapped Fish time and time again, but you could usually read the signs:  the permafrost spread its fingers further south, leaving the oceans frozen out of season, and the currents did not lie, blasts of cold water killed as often as they warned, but allowed the Fish to know where to swim and complete their missions safely.

Winter was a near cosmic experience for the Fish, the freezing waters took on a glassy, reflective look moving forward along the city grids, swallowing block, after block, turning the waters to solid ice from the ocean floor to the surface, each encroachment sending silent explosions along the currents, ice walls several thousands of feet in height and thousands of miles thick, until the summer came and freed them again, but always shorter summers, and always less water.

Adi was dead.  Ari saw her in the Dream and knew that she had succumbed to her mission. She was in the Dream with him, floating through the depths with the whales and the sharks, spinning through swarms of jellyfish unbitten, he knew she had succumbed to the Dream and merged with it, leaving reality behind for the endless echo of singing whales…

 

“Excerpt from the Council of the Divine Undertaking

Point of Order: Of the Fish.

Mole Councilman Eli Khadivi:

Members of the Council, as we know, the Divine Undertaking is nearing completion, although they suffered significant casualties, the Fish, in their own time, managed to provide enough energy for the power units to support our needs for several hundreds of years.

Before congratulating ourselves we must consider the implications of the undertaking. Neptune saw fit to grant us the strength to survive his trial, and Hades has embraced our endeavors and blessed them with success.

But what are we to do of the Fish? We must consider the fate of these poor degenerates, if we are to prosper in the warm embrace of the Cave. Would these poor creatures hopelessly addicted to the freedom of the waters find peace in the bowels of the earth? Those “dreams” of which they speak, which we naively believed to be Neptune manifested, those dreams, which inevitably, inexorably lead every Fish over the cliff, are nothing more than madness, insanity brought about by their arrogance and vanity. Did we ever really believe that they heard the whales? The Fish thought themselves Neptune’s chosen and are paying the price of blasphemy. Should we have to suffer for them? We who believed them, pinned our hopes on them? Sweated blood for the Divine Undertaking?

We know not what they may unleash; we cannot afford to offer salvation to all of our own as we are. We must chose councilmen, not out of centuries of hate and resentment, nor out of pity for their poisoned and diseased minds, but by the light shining through the darkness, by the shadow on the wall…

When Hell freezes over, when Neptune closes his scaly fist upon land and sea, the fate of the Fish shall be sealed.”

 

The Fish’s quarters lay at the bottom of each settlement along the coast, looking up towards the higher echelons, where the Moles and the priesthood resided, through which the staircases, spiraling underground, were the only way in, or out of the Divine Undertaking.

Bells rung from the Divine Hall, striking the hour. Ari thanked his mother for the bread, and looked up towards the well-lit windows of the Mole district. His mind was elsewhere. The Dream was stronger since the last mission; laughter mingled with submarine harmonics, and somewhere, Adi giggled at imaginary mermaids. He shook his head but for a moment, reality disappeared, and dolphins glowed a sickly green around him…

He came to, shaken violently by his father. As his mother burst suddenly into focus, he saw her tears.

“Even awake, now…wide awake, now!” Her hands clung to her apron and rolled them into fists, she was biting her lip, shaking. How long had he been gone?

Jonah rested a hand on her shoulder, and wiped a droplet of blood pearling on her lower lip.

“I’ve turned out alright.” He said.

“No, no you haven’t, none of you. You don’t hear yourselves at night, or maybe you do, maybe you’re all together somewhere, but I hear you, loud and clear. The sounds you make…they’re not human Jonah! They’re not…”

“We’ve been over this before, they’re just dreams Zohar, just dreams.”

She looked at Ari, spat some blood into her apron, and walked to the window, facing out to the cliff.

“One night, the two of you, the two of you were…synchronized, you all were, every single one of you in every house! The Moles came down with the Priests. No one could wake you, none of you. I left the house, I wandered to the edge of the waters, there were things down there Jonah, not the whales, you’ve shown me those, they spit water, other things, strange things, glowing things circling each other endlessly. I stayed and watched them spin for hours; made myself sick! I only turned back when they left. When I got home the noises had stopped, you were breathing normally again, both of you: ALL OF YOU…”

“The scriptures are full of stranger things my soul, they’re just dreams…”

He threw his son a look, Ari smiled at his mother, as he did, the dolphins flickered back into focus. They floated in suspended animation, staring at him silently, and exploded into particles of ice, ripping his mother apart.

 

When Ari entered the conference room, the tables were laced with maps of Hell in the Time of Narcissus, marking cities in lands that no longer existed.

The room was full of high-ranking Moles, representatives of the Priesthood and leaders of Fish communities along the coast. The air was heavy with whispers and mistrust, smoke made eyes squint, and people look askance. His father was leaning over a map, arguing with a Mole councilmen and an on looking, silent Priest.

“With all due respect Councilman, we could not have accomplished this mission six months ago. The chances of success were slim then, they are null now.”

“Is there something the Fish can’t do Jonah?” the councilman laughed, slamming a companionable hand on Jonah’s back.

“I appreciate the jest Councilman, and the trust, I do, but most of these cities are caught in the glaciers, this entire region, in fact, is solid ice from sea to sky, and has been so for years. Even if we could make it that far, hoping some river ways are still navigable and some landmasses are still uncovered, we would need six months to complete this mission, with relays, a network of them, located here, here and possibly here. We don’t have the human capacity to support an operation of this size, even if we had, time is against us, winter will be upon us before we can return, and we’d be too busy to keep track of encroachments in the permafrost.”

“How about a…“hit and run” I believe was the old fashioned term. How about a hit and swim to the glaciers, we have several seismic charges which the Divine Undertaking will not require, free as much land and town as you can, salvage what you can, and swim back?”

“Impossible sir, the glaciers are too high and too thick, we could wreck significant damage, here.” He scanned the map for a few seconds. “And here maybe, but the repercussions are unpredictable, the pressure of thousands of cubic tons of ice could cause giant waves, could bring down water temperature just enough to allow the glacier to spread faster rather than crumble, it would collapse and solidify farther in a matter of minutes; we’d be trapped under and in, there would be no coming back. A hundred years ago, even fifty, maybe. Today…”

“It is settled then, avoid the deep north, and focus your efforts on these two regions, you…”

“…would need six times the men we have sir.”

Councilman Khadivi’ s grin told Ari that his father had fallen right into it.

“And you will have them! The Council would never ask the Fish to risk their lives on a suicide mission, nor would we make this unusual request if the Divine Undertaking didn’t demand it, and not without a significant involvement by the council.”

“Sir? It’s all deep north, it’s not a question of where so much as when.” Jonah didn’t like losing, his face frozen, as he grappled for arguments to throw off the wrench he had wedged for himself. “We are grateful for your help, but your men aren’t trained. There is a reason why Fish pass the tradition down, one generation after another. We would need weeks to train your men, and that’s barely enough for them to use their equipment, and handle the storage units sir. With all due respect sir, we are talking about months under water!” His fist slammed down on the map, and momentarily quieted the buzz of distrust and suspicion bouncing from wall to wall and committee to committee. “Your men, well intended though they may be, don’t have a mind for the depths, they would slow us down, they’re a hindrance sir, you should know that.”

“Didn’t you say that you would need relay points along a network Jonah? That you would be too busy to monitor changes in currents, sudden encroachments of permafrost, marine life, and threats of such nature?”

Jonah stood nonplussed.

“Well yes sir, except the last bit sir, we can handle those, but…”

“It is agreed then, that with enough manpower the mission can be accomplished before the winter yes? Our men will serve at your command as relays, to monitor submarine activity, and maintain open communication with the Council. If for any reason, we were to believe your mission could end in failure or death, we would pull back, and wait out the winter. If you have any reason to believe they cannot complete such simple tasks after three weeks of your expert training, we’d be the first to call the operation off. After all what are few more years to Hades?”

Jonah was staring out the window, his eyes black and unfocused. Councilman Khadisi, looking firmly away from him, smiled and said:

“Agreed Jonah?”

Jonah didn’t respond. Everyone in the room had stopped talking, and stared desperately at him, the Fish leaders, intimately aware of what was happening, not daring to intervene. All the Fish Dream Fish Dreams, everyone knew by now, Fish, Mole, Priest and Beast[1], Ant[2] and Bee[3]. Everyone understood, but none would speak of it. For Jonah, this meant that he could not ask the councilman to repeat himself, that whatever had been said, whatever the councilman’s intentions, whichever conditions had been laid out, Jonah had no other choice but to acquiesce.

“Agreed? Jonah?”

His eyes shifted back to reality, he looked around, catching the other Fish’s eyes and knew he had lost.

“Yes sir, agreed sir, of course sir.” Embarrassment and loss tinted his voice. “In the name of the Divine Undertaking all Men must labor and all Men must sacrifice.”

 

Power had shifted from the Fish to the Moles as swiftly as gradually. Cast realities meant that groups were tied to the land they labored, the machinery they operated, the seas they swam and the caves they dug.

When the Moles first revolted, a hundred years in the past, they did so by barring access to the Divine Undertaking, and short of blasphemy, threatened the destruction of the caves, and took the Priesthood hostage in an attempt to sway the other casts against their Fish masters.

The Blank Book of Scriptures did not define a hierarchy between casts based on Divine purpose; rather the Priests’ moral authority determined which casts held most sway in the Council, and which held none not at all.

In the Age of Aquarius, where each day was lost to sea, the Fish had risen to prominence out of necessity. Man’s survival depending on their skill and devotion to the sea. But as the Divine Undertaking advanced, and the Return to the Cave grew closer, people found evidence of divinity in the Moles over the Fish.

The Time of Hades was coming about, certainly through the Fish’ endeavors and bravery, but in reality, the Caves were dug, equipped, planned and prepared by Moles.

Fish Dreams, prophetic a first, the Voice of Neptune’s Chosen, soon revealed the truth behind them, madness. Insanity that threatened Man’s survival, insanity that brought the numbers of Fish ranks down, but more importantly, destroyed motivation in worthy members of other casts, to join the Fish. Without fresh blood, the Dream grew stronger with each generation, taking Fish over the edge ever earlier, babies born in the Dream, thrown over the edge, Fish children losing touch with reality found beaten or dead after missing for days. For the first time, people, not only Moles, feared the Fish.

The Mole’s revolts swept along the wave of mistrust and fear, coercing the Priests into positioning themselves against the Fish, and over time excluding them from the Council. Neptune’s time was over and Hades’ was at hand. The Fish had served their time and their madness condemned them to fade, first from power and eventually, from existence.

 

Fish Dream on land, and Fish Dream in water. Ari’s Dreams grew deeper as the weeks passed, installing markers, trackers and cables along the way west before heading north.

The waters far beneath swallowed even the darkness, light didn’t fade so much as squeeze to death, leading to the real bottom, the old ocean floors, rather than submerged lands, those depths were the true dark. Somewhere down there was where all Fish went, the currents rising from it lashing upwards to the surface, suddenly drawn back down like giant tentacles, carrying echoes that spoke of minds, deep below.

In the depths, day or night, reality or Dream, who knew? And in his sleep, tied to rocks and cliff walls, beaten by the currents, he could feel other Dreamers, circling him, but unlike the surface, where the other Dreamers were shadows, underwater he knew their evil, their care, their disdain, their disinterest, their love, their amusement, but above all, even in the deepest Dream, when things he had never seen and would not bear to, loomed over and around him in his sleep, he knew that he was safe in the Dream.

The recruits were suffering heavy losses. Nights could go by without an incident and one day three never woke up, two were never found and one couldn’t be identified for missing a head, suit and skin.

Some recruits spoke of darker shadows, moving faster than the currents, of muffled noises around them on nights when their companions disappeared, of deafening sounds and stinks of decomposing flesh. The Fish feigned incomprehension; they were too far at large to cause further panic by voicing speculations, and it helped that Fish died and went missing as well.

The recruits were trained and knew the perils, but it was clear that they were not drifting at large out of negligence, that they were firmly and properly tied at night, that they weren’t clawing their own faces off in their sleep. What the Fish did not dare voice, was the presence in the Dream, the sense of looming beings in the night; the sense of safety they all shared, inevitably translated into one, or several, dead recruits.

This had never happened in Fish memory, when teammates went missing, it was either one of five things, poisoning, bleeding, drowning, freezing, or Dreaming. Never was a Fish found eviscerated and fed on in the morning. Sea creatures could be as vicious as they were kind, attack with blinding speed in the blind waters, jellyfish brainless and indiscriminate in their thousands, and things with mouths…but in the Dream there was always safety, safety until morning.

Once they installed the relay stations, the recruits would be safer, it would be possible for them to keep guard and alternate working shifts. They would be safer.

 

“West…West…”

Rebecca’s communications were erratic, confusing and almost rhythmic. For days, between flashes of lucidity, she kept muttering the same word over the Com lines. West, west, west…You could not shut her out without cutting yourself off from the network, so he endured on. They would lose her any day, and the sooner the better for them as well as her.

“Becky, we’re heading north-northwest.” Someone would chime in every now and then. That was the difficult part; keeping Rebecca focused enough so she would not try to head back southeast, in the opposite direction she urged us towards.

They were swimming over a town called Budapest, what remained of it. It wasn’t their destination, there was nothing left to offer in the city or in the nuclear power plants further north. Bridge foundations remained intact, but everywhere metal frames spiked out of shattered buildings, massive structures open to the waters, rows upon rows of seats surrounding stages, empty plazas covered in rock and weed. From above, you could clearly tell where the river used to flow under bridges and around the central island. All of the city’s wealth in wiring, batteries, glass, plastic, anything that could be salvaged, used, fixed or recycled had been plundered by generation after generation of Fish.

They would head northwest from here towards France and with luck, the ice would have retreated far enough that land would be free up to London and most of the old industrial zones were open to scavenging. Or so Jonah hoped. Without luck England would still be under, northern France would be iced over already, and if the ice had reached the western Alps then they would have to double back and pray; it would be the last winter before returning to the Cave.

A few more days and it would be the longest Ari had ever spent underwater, and never this long over Europe. He had been as far as Istanbul, and much further southeast for oil, where most Fish missions went, and could have reached here sooner, but this was a different route, further southwest towards Greece to install a relay station before B-Team headed further west towards Spain and A-Team caught currents heading north. We should have sent Rebecca along with them.

That was a terrible thought; Fish took each other’s passing very seriously. Before the Dream took you, some of the things you said had meaning, unfortunately, most of what you said did not. Recycling was not an option for Fish, unless one of them died of disease or some accident or another. Even then the body would be thrown unceremoniously over the cliff. All that needed saying was said in the Dream, and the brief moments before one’s passing were treated with near reverence, pity they were so much nonsense. Sometimes they were prophetic, but prophecy is as much a matter of minutes as of centuries, it will happen sooner or later, you would lose your mind before the Dream took you, trying to decipher every random thought.

 

“B-Team do you copy? B-Team, do you copy? We have reached Munich and found evidence of deep icing at the bottom. What is the situation in Spain? I repeat, what is the situation in Spain?”

With the winter, it was not uncommon for communications to go out for days between teams. Contact between teams and relay stations, and between relay stations and the Council, were given on the networks. Any change in the ice cap could muddle communications over long distances between teams.

“Relay Station 2 do you copy?”

“We copy A-Team.”

“Relay Station 2, inform the council, ice has encroached to Munich, I repeat, ice has encroached to Munich. By our estimates the glaciers must be no further than 3-400 miles north-northwest, north-northeast might be safer, but not very long. Water has solidified overhead. Relay Station 2 Do you copy?”

“We copy A Team. We will inform the Council and communicate their instructions. A Team, do you copy?”

“We copy Relay Station 2. On stand-by for instructions.”

Ari spun. Behind him Rebecca’s voice exploded through the Com lines, and out of her body, propelling him backwards into a tower. For a second an orca appeared where she floated, swallowed by a lantern-eyed beast the size of the buildings beneath him.

“Ari? What fool games are you playing? If there was anything here we wouldn’t be picking ice out of our noses. Look above you. Are you stupid?”

Jonah’s voice was thick with nerves. Ari shook himself out of the rubble and floated up to his father.

“Look up? Look behind you! I told you about Becky days ago, and you’re gonna take this out on me?!”

Panic registered beneath his father’s helmet. He activated a sensor meant for locking arms to half-ton cubes for transport, and clamped Ari’s shoulders.

The sudden pressure nearly broke them and sent a flash of searing pain through his brain; his father froze in front of his eyes and started freezing him with him, through his palms and into Ari’s shoulders.

“Rebecca’s been gone four days now!”

The ice retreated from his shoulders back into his father’s palms, unfreezing him along. The waters turned a deeper blue with sunlight shining through the ice cap. He started heaving into his breathing unit, his father’s hands unclenched, his hand twisted and caught Ari across the face with a blow, while his other hand kept him from spinning.

“She’s been gone four days Ari, when was the last time you saw her?”

“Just a moment ago…she was right behind me before she…”

He turned around, looking upwards and downwards; all five hundred fish in A Team were focused on them. Some swam in concentric and over lapping circles around the group, but all Com units were silent and intent on the conversation. None appeared to have seen Rebecca, or an orca, or a giant stomach with teeth, or heard a Fish burst into whale song, or heard of a Fish bursting into whale song in their entire lives.

“When is the last time you remember her with the team?” Jonah’s words were slow, the deafening silence on the Com waves made the ocean feel like a Priest, his head tilted, looking for confirmation of what he already knew.

“About…four days ago, she kept babbling on, same as she had for days, she started drifting east. I caught up with her, and turned her back our way. Been keeping an eye on her ever since.”

“Son, Rebecca was gone in the morning, she was never with us on the fourth day…and she’s been behind you since?”

He didn’t answer. The A-Team kept floating around them effortlessly. His father shook his head.

“It’s fine. Night will be on us in a few hours.” He raised the volume on his speaker. “We’ll bunk in the buildings and wait for word of the Council. The center of the city has the most remaining structures; we’ll bunk in groups of ten within a one-mile radius. We’ll reconvene in nine hours if we haven’t received word. Understood? Good. Ari, you bunk with me.”

 

The ice was thicker nine hours later, nine hours later, the glaciers had moved southeast enough that the water gleamed with thin with particles of ice pushing south.

“Relay Station 2 do you copy? This is A Team do you copy?”

“We copy A-Team. We have just received word from Relay Station 1. You are to stand-by A-Team, I repeat stand-by. An emergency session of the Council was called to discuss matters. We have received word from B-Team that significant progress was made in Spain. Stand-by for further instructions. I repeat, stand-by for further instructions. A-Team do you copy?”

“We copy Relay Station 2.  It’s getting rough out here. Ten to twelve hours tops. We will expect word from you. In exactly twelve hours I will give orders to consolidate at your location until further communications. Relay Station 2 do you copy?”

“We copy A-Team.  We’ll be passing on instructions soon. Hang in tight.”

 

Exactly eleven hours later, just as Jonah was giving orders to double back, Relay Station 2 broke silence.

“A-Team do you copy? A-Team this is Relay Station 2. A-Team do you copy?”

“We copy Relay Station 2. About to lift camp. I repeat, about to lift camp. Relay Station 2 do you copy?”

Temperatures had plummeted since the last contact with the relay station. Where thin particles of ice lit up the dark only a few hours ago, the water was now thick with them, almost slush.  Another twelve hours, less, and the slush would thicken, coagulate, and harden, and harden and harden until the moving glacier created explosions on the surface, like a giant’s thump blowing dust in every direction, blasting ice further south into the waters ahead, and grow.

“We copy A-Team. B-Team is heading back west from Spain.  You are to reconvene over Sicily and help with transport. I repeat reconvene with B-Team over Sicily and help with transport. A-Team, do you copy?

“We copy Really Station 2. Requesting explanation for the delay in communications. Do you copy? Requesting explanation for the delay.”

“We copy A-Team, a flash storm, heading north-northwest hit the colony over night, communications were disrupted for ten hours. A-Team, do you copy?

“We copy Relay Station 2. Relay Station 2 the glaciers are moving faster than anticipated. Conditions over Munich deteriorating exponentially, I repeat. Conditions over Munich deteriorating exponentially.  At going rates, we will never be more than 24 hours ahead of the ice. I repeat, we will never be more than 24 hours ahead of the ice. We may have to evacuate Relay Stations after contact with B-Team. Relay Station 2 do you copy?”

“We copy A Team, and thank you for fair warning. On stand by until you make contact over Sicily. Repeat, on stand-by until contact in Sicily. Over and out.”

Priority communications shut down and no one spoke until Amir cleared his throat on the Com line and spun a few back flips for show. Amir made everything he said sound like he was coughing up spiteful spit.

“Haven’t heard of a north-northeast storm, flash or otherwise heading for the colony this season since never. My old man might have said something about that but the Dream took him, even in his right mind he never made much sense to me!”

Laughter rang on the Com line. Amir spun a few more back flips and cleared his throat again. He would die before the Dream took him, and that shouldn’t be long. No living Fish had known his father; at nearly sixty Amir was the oldest Fish alive.

 

It took a little under a week to reach Sicily. Even out of the slush, the waters were streaking particles of ice all the way south. The Alps’ summits shot high over the ice cap, but the bodies shifted currents underwater, creating powerful maelstroms, yanking Fish down between boulders and into caves. The Dream was free of Dreamers, after weeks of feeling their presence it was discomforting to sleep. They weren’t always there, but now they were gone, entirely, and they were getting less sleep each night. Caves in the Alps were still inhabited, a cave in this weather a death trap either way, you’d wake up breathing ice, backed up against a stone wall, alone if you were lucky. Some thought a quick death better.

Never more than a few hours rest, and they’d wake up in pre-glacier slush, beating the ice by only a few hours each time.

By the time they reached Sicily, they had lost over fifty teammates to the Dream and the ice. They had rested in cities only twice, and only because the weather conditions made sleeping along cliff walls too dangerous. In both Milan and Naples, buildings had come down on the Fish during the night, and the slush had infiltrated respirators, oxygen converters and filters over time.  

There was no sign of B-Team.  At least the ice had slowed its rapid progress south, the bulk of the glacier still working its way around the Alps.

“Relay Station 2, this is A-Team, do you copy?”

“We copy A-Team. Over”

“There is no sign of B-Team, I repeat, no sign of B-Team. The ice is gaining ground, but the mountains are in the way. Evacuate Relay Station 2, consolidate at Relay Station 1; I repeat, evacuate and consolidate at Relay Station 1. Relay Station 2 do you copy?”

“Copy A Team. Good luck. Over.”

They would need luck, the Dream was taking them in droves; several Fish would go missing at a time, falling behind and into the deeper slush. Some would emerge and fall back again, ever slower in their movements, ever weaker in resisting the currents.

Their last communications were barely intelligible, as if trying to articulate the void, or let them know what they were missing. What a Fish saw last, what a Fish felt last, they would all know soon.  Ari held on to sanity for Jonah, and Zohar at home, but fear rode the Dream, not his own fear, but it was there, and it blurred his vision almost constantly now, behind him, he caught a reflection of a whale in the ice wall where there was no ice, and no whale, around him and ahead of him thickening slush, where the waters were clear, slightly icy, but clear. His limbs fell numb as he swam, he didn’t need them. Perhaps the other Fish were all seeing the same thing. If it weren’t for Jonah’s constant surveillance, he would have fallen behind too.

 

Relay Station 2 was deserted as expected; the slush hadn’t reached the station from the north, confirming that the northeast was still relatively quiet, yet the recruits had packed all the equipment, including chargers for the propulsion engines, food and energy packs, and oxygen filters.   

“Relay Station 1 do you copy? Relay Station 1?”

The Com Line was silent.

“B-Team do you copy? This is A-Team do you copy?”

“Copy A-Team, this is B-Team do you copy?”

“We copy B-Team. Over.”

“A-Team do you copy?! A-Team?! A-Team head east now! I repeat! Head…” an explosion sounded on the Com line and communication stopped.

“B-Team? B-Team, do you copy? B-Team!”

Something was not right, his father’s yelling on the Com line shook Ari out of the Dream long enough for him to assess the situation coldly: B-Team had lost contact, Relay Stations 1 and 2 were deserted, and it took twenty hours altogether, twenty hours, for the Council to communicate instructions…

 

Relay Station 1 was not only abandoned, it was sabotaged, and they’d lost dozens more in a few days.  Laughter heals, but its comfort dulls the mind. Maybe if Amir had not joked, maybe they would have paid closer attention to what it was he said about flash storms this season, and started adding up. Not since never? Maybe his old man?  No one had ever met Amir’s old man, he had been dead forty years or more, and if Amir couldn’t be sure… It took a few minutes for each member of the team to put the last few days together, but someone had to ask.

“Jonah. When you met with the councilman. What were his reasons for this mission?” The voice sounded like Sarah’s.

Jonah gave a start, hesitated, and paused, but Adam cut in.

“It’s alright Jonah, we know, we saw you argue this mission best you could.”

“Yeah, don’t worry about it Jonah.” “Yeah boss, couldn’t have done better myself.” “Yeah, we all saw you Jonah.” “Yeah…”

The Com line was a chorus of agreements.

“It was gonna happen sooner or later Jonah,” Amir proclaimed, “we all saw it coming, we just never said nothing, none of us. We never cared; none of us did, even now. Moles set us up, Council says nothing, Dream kicks in, decisions are made and we’re out at sea again, swimming head first into Hell, not ‘membering what the hell for or how it is we got suckered in again. None of us care anymore; the Dream’ll take us all. Sounds to me like something else got B-Team, and I don’t see them caring either. So what they say, huh? What can you remember?”

Jonah threw his head back and floated closer to the group.

“The only thing that matters every time Amir: the spouses and kids will be cared for…”

Amir laughed out loud. “That’s a nice thought! Not that it matters much either…”

“Easy for you to say, we aren’t all married to Fish.”  “Yeah, you imbecile, my wife is a Bee.” “So is my husband.” “My wife was a Mole until they cast her out.”

“And so is my wife.” Jonah interjected before a fight broke out. His voice had grown firmer “We made that choice when we married them and we knew what it meant. For Yuri it meant extra ratios of grain we all know that.” Laughter again relieved the tension, but there was little to be wary about anymore. “Those we meet in the Dream we can worry about then, for those we don’t…Hades’ embrace is warm and comforting…”

Jonah’s words afterwards were few and short. The Council had urged the mission forward, in full knowledge of the risks to the Fish, and there was little doubt left that the Moles and Priests were expecting the outcome. Exploiting the last of the resources in Europe before the ice settled over it, and the last winter before the Cave? Right…

Fish missions seldom headed north. Monitoring missions would travel regularly to measure changes in the glaciers and alert the colony to ice moving south. But Europe was always intermittently under ice now, most missions headed south themselves, over the Gulf, for oil reserves that were immediately available and easier to transport. Those waters teamed with submarine life, some benign, some not, attack, not ice, was a Fish’s first concern, but in these waters, where the Dreamers had gone, sifting through the equipment left behind at Relay Station 2, running out of oxygen, food, sleep, and power, finding only enough propulsion engines to get a handful safely back to a colony that had already decided on their fate…

…A voice boomed through the waters, part human, part whale song: WEST…

A-Team turned west, Ari spun on himself and saw Rebecca again, floating ahead of him, translucent, and glittering with ice flecks, then disappear in a silent blast again, a few feet from the Fish, rippling through the waters in waves knocking Fish back, up through the ice crust, and down towards the bottom. Thy all felt it this time. Ari tumbled back, regained control, and stabilized himself facing the direction of the blast.

In the distance, the waters were getting darker, and gaining ground forward, he focused his visor on a noticeably darker shape, caught deep in the incoming slush, and reality caught up with the Dream. Another shock wave threw him back, and another, and another. His visor focused again on the shape, tumble after tumble. He zoomed in on it, revealing a two-headed white whale; its tail caught in the western glacier, struggling to free itself, each new blast ripping chunks of flesh, as ice, cut through skin, nerve and bone.

Another blast dislodged ice from the surface, raining chunks dozens of feet thick weighing several tons down on the scrambling Fish. Ari felt drawn forward, moving at great speed towards the living ice wall, and the dying whale and yet remained motionless. He braced himself for impact when dizzyingly, before his eyes, the glacier was spreading ahead of him now, he could not move, air was freezing in his lungs and the cold numbed the pain from his massive wounds, his entire body trapped, his tail useless, he caught sight of his second head, its eyes black and dead….

…Through the ice, far in the distance, he could see Fish-like shapes, tossed left and right, struggling to stay out of the blast radius. His strength was leaving him, and his eyes zoomed forward again, through the ice, and into the desperate shapes. He saw himself floating lifeless a few yards ahead, just as he collided with himself, reality took over and his father was floating above him, one of the metal fixings from the relay station jammed in his ribs, blood twirling into a shield around him as he spun helplessly, bounced around by the blasts, dead underwater.

Ice particles were flashing by, cutting through skin suits, and riding only a few minutes ahead of the slush, coagulating almost instantly on disoriented Fish.

Ari floated up to his father and ripped the propulsion pack attached to his back, cursing himself, hoping against luck that there was enough energy left to make it to the Colony. No matter what happened, he would see his mother, and he would die taking out as many Moles as he could before they did him in. The Dream could claim him then, but not now.

He repeated the operation with three more corpses, attached a Food & Energy pack to his skin suit, feeding through osmosis, and blast his way out of the thickening muck, and ahead, faster and faster ahead.

 

The Glacier had changed directions. The Fish had wrongly assumed that its progression was a constant south-southeast. They had never considered that it could have been moving in full on from the west as well. The explosion that silenced B-Team made sense to him now. Spreading cracks in the icing overhead alerted him to the much larger northern glacier resuming its progress south.

If he was not careful, he would be caught in a vise and forced south. If he did not gain speed he would be too far south to reach the colony, if he did not run out of propulsion first. He shot himself towards the surface at an angle, trying to break the ice cap to get a sense of the glacier from the surface.

At full speed, he projected himself forward and up at a spin, to ease the impact with the surface and have a rotating view, catching all the angles before plunging back and repeating the operation again. Cutting through the air rather than the water would keep him out of the slush, and the explosions, and with luck, he would stay ahead just long enough when he dove back to allow himself another leap.

His helmet broke the ice into the blearing sunlight. The spin should have blocked the sun out intermittently, but the reflection on the ice made it worse. He activated his shading unit: the bulk of the glacier was closing in on him, full west and northwest.

The sun shone bright on the ice, and the sky was a perfect blue, but you couldn’t guess from what happened beneath. The ice cap stretched for several hundred yards behind him, until the glacier filled it in from the bottom, and there, the world ended. A mile, maybe less, and moving at three yards a second.

The surface blew up and settled in sequence, row after row of frozen eruption, just like the Ants would cause to artificially induce soil replacement and accretion in the frozen fields behind the colony before the spring. A cloud of diamonds and glass, stretching north and south further than he could see, settling down, rising up again a few yards ahead, settling and rising again in waves. Where the detonations below were silent killers, the deflagrations outside were shock waves of vertigo. He saw a group of Fish leap through the surface and into the air in the distance, he could not tell whom, but they were too close to the glacier, much too close. The Fish spun down headfirst into the ice. Ari zoomed out too late, the first Fish’s head exploded in blood against it, missing the thinner ice cap by only a few yards. The glacier exploded southward almost as soon as he hit, tearing the rest of the body limb from limb, slicing the rest of the group in an explosion of spears of ice.

Ari’s own spin brought him downwards, through the ice cap, into the streaking ice, and up again in five hundred yard leaps. It was all he could do to stay ahead, trying to beat Neptune’s closing, vengeful fist, leaping and swimming north-northeast towards the colony.

The waters were shallower when he approached the cliff, leap after leap. He couldn’t dive as deep nor leap as high, his propulsion pack was running out, and the smaller, more frequent, leaps gobbled up all the energy. In the shallower waters, the glacier moved faster, blast after blast, threatening almost every leap and every dive, but the familiar cliffs of the colony were ahead of him.

The smell of smoke caught his nose mid-jump; burning pyres lined the edge of the cliff. He couldn’t tell what they were, but he had little doubt the Moles had kept their word and “taken care” of the children and spouses.

Thousands of voices flooded the Dream. Not the screams of the bodies on the pyres, he was too far to hear them, but a choir of emotions and feelings, none of them painful, all of them acceptant. He sought for his mother in the jungle of sentience, and couldn’t find her. He probed for his father, and felt him somewhere, and Adi, and Amir…

The smell of smoke broke the spell, but it was too late. Caught in the dead Fish’ Dreams, he tried a leap towards the cliff wall. He would break the surface, soar over the flames, and find arms somehow, food too, somehow, and then he’d wreck havoc, and then and only then, the Dream would take him. But it was too late; he concentrated all the power in his propulsion engines for a final leap forward. His head broke the ice, but the slush congealed against his feet, stopping his forward motion and pulling him back, snapping him in half at the waist. The ice closed in on his body before both halves could separate and numbed him to the pain.

He tried to scream but his lungs were freezing with each passing second. A slow rumble came up from the bottom, alerting him to the eruption to come. The sun faded from his vision along with the smell of smoke and the burning of the pyres.

The world disappeared, and he saw shapes floating through the depths, worse than the lantern-eyed hallucination of a few weeks back, larger, faceless, each tentacle holding an eye and mouths all over their bodies. Between those monsters, he saw dolphins and sharks, glowing in shades of yellow and green, slowly dying of radiation poisoning, slowly changing into new things. And even smaller, between the dolphins and the sharks, between and around the monsters and the whales, tiny, tiny creatures, shaped just as Fish were when they wore their suits. Small creatures as he had never seen before, attaching themselves to dolphin, shark, whale and monster alike, guiding them, drifting gently at their side…he felt himself shrink as the rumble of the glacier grew tenor, then baritone, and saw a giant two-headed whale in the depths, catching the light glowing off the dolphins, and he swam closer to it, ever shrinking, ever deeper, ever smaller….

…The explosion obliterated his body in a deluge of ice, flesh and blood, but Ari was already in the depths, in the comfort of the Dream.


[1] Beasts are the lowest cast by tradition, but have risen over the Fish since the takeover by the Moles. Their cast builds and maintains living and storage structures and repairing damage to infrastructure, caused by storms or seismic activity.

[2] Ants build maintain and operate the machinery that supports the coastal communities, without Ants, there would be no fresh water, no power sources, and no food, the production of which depends on the availability of filtered water, no communication units and, initially, no equipment for the other casts, until production passed along to artisans within each cast.

[3] Bees work the fields and produce food for the community. Some Bees are involved in pasturing in high altitude plateaus deeper inland, but their numbers are very small, given the limited species available for sustenance. 

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Gaal Gui, Freedom-Aux potes de Yoff et Ngor

Image

Si seulement les vagues pouvaient s’arrêter…

Oui, ou la mer se transformer magiquement en Fanta cocktail, ou cette pirogue en vaisseau spatial….

On ne devrait plus être loin pourtant, mais tout a l’air si proche sur une carte, si petit, on enjambe le monde en un pas et bonjour Los Angeles, Bangkok, Hawaii, on éternue trop fort et le vent nous emporte à Kinshasa ou à Nairobi…Abidjan n’a plus l’air si mal maintenant, au contraire, Tamba non plus d’ailleurs, Tamba non plus…

« Ismaël ! Ismaël Wow kai ! Ton frère a  envoyé une lettre, laisse Seynabou et lis la moi ! »

Nabou m’empêche de partir, elle me tire vers elle et me plonge la tête dans ses seins, ses seins si doux si fermes, elle me pousse la tête dans ses seins et me demande l’air narquois :

« Et toi quand est ce que tu m’enverras une lettre ? »

« Quand tu sauras lire » je lui réponds, et la repousse avec un sourire.

Ma mère m’attend dans la cour, ses cheveux blancs, ou ce qu’il en reste, couverts par un tissu bleu, un morceau du Bazin qu’elle a acheté quand Mbaye est venu rendre visite. Combien de temps va elle attendre qu’il revienne à me faire lire ses lettres ? Encore cinq ans ? Dix ? Elle a une patience a toute épreuve, même si ça fait cinq ans qu’on ne reçoit rien, rien que des lettres écrites par un tiers en son nom, racontant des prouesses dont on ne voit que des bouts de papiers noircis…des bouts de papier qui s’empilent dans le tiroir, mon tiroir…

« Attention ! »

J’ouvre les yeux juste a temps pour voir la vague frapper la pointe de la pirogue et l’eau s’engouffrer dans ma bouche et mes narines, Aissatou se faire projeter de l’embarquement dans l’eau noire sans fond et sans limite, et la vague m’emporte à mon tour….

« Combien de temps tu dis ? »

« Trois quatre jours pas plus, tu me connais, je connais mon métier non ? A moins que tu ne préfères nous guider ? »

Hors de question, Famera il connait son métier c’est vrai, la mer il la connait aussi, mais il disait la même chose quand il a voulu faire le malin, et décidé de ramasser une mine… A part ça, c’est beau la Casamance, a mille lieux de Tambacounda que ça serait une autre planète ça serait pareil, une planète ou ils mangent du thieb et snif de l’héroïne a en perdre les cheveux d’accord, mais une autre planète quand même, mais sans Famera c’est fichu, et avec Famera ça ne me coûtera que la moitie de mon argent. Le garde côte Espagnol l’avait bien dit :

« Tu sais Ismaël, j’vais te dire, ce qu’on te raconte ces des conneries, du travail il y’en a pour un siècle en Espagne, vous pourriez être mille a arriver tous les jours ça ne changerait rien…et puis les Sénégalais vous êtes des bosseurs, j’ai jamais eu de problèmes avec vous, tu m’connais, je vois des Sénégalais arriver je les laisse passer et leur donne un coup de main si j’ai le temps…les Nigérians et les Ghanéens je les noierais moi même si je pouvais par contre, tous des drogués ou des trafiquants… »

Un siècle c’est bon et je peux travailler pour mille, et pour des mille et des cents alors…

Et sans Famera c’est foutu avec une main en moins ou douze bras en plus…

Un, deux, trois ! Poussez !

La barque se retourne et se remet a flots, on s’accroche comme on peut, on tire les rames derrière nous et remontons un par un pour ne pas faire chavirer le navire. Mamadou, remonte d’abord et nous tire a bord les un après les autres. On fait le constat des dégâts : on n’est plus que dix, de Aissatou, pas une trace, ni a bord ni hors bord, des quatre bonbonnes d’eau il ne nous en reste plus qu’une, de la moitie de mon argent il ne reste plus rien, je décolle un billet trempé de mon dos qui commence à s’effriter des que j’essaie de le déplier et on commence à vider l’eau de mer, les vieux reprennent leur souffle, connard de Famera….

Le reflet de la lune sur les fesses de Nabou, la goutte de sueur qui lui coule le long du dos, par le ravins formes par ses hanches jusqu’au creux de ses genoux. Je reste dehors un peu à inspirer l’air marin. Les gardiens vont venir essayer de me dégager, de nous chasser pour ne pas déranger les touristes, mais qu’ils viennent, je suis un client moi monsieur, je paye, je reste, et je t’enmerde. Les gardiens Sénégalais c’est les pires, ils sont plus hargneux que les Guinéens, plus teigneux que les blancs qui s’en foutent d’ailleurs et préfèrent venir fumer des joints avec nous. L’air est fort, la marée est haute ce soir avec la pleine lune qui fait briller Nabou comme une statue nacrée…

« Ismaël ! Fainéant ! Allah pourquoi j’en ai pas eu deux comme Mbaye ?! Tu te maries et c’est de ma poche ! Fils ingrat ! »

D’abord Mbaye il fait son beurre et se fout bien de nous, ensuite l’argent c’est le village qui l’a donné, pour que je me maries, bouge sur Mbour et ramène le beurre et l’argent du beurre, avec intérêts, j’ai emprunté à tout le monde alors ses jérémiades… mais c’est ma mère, et si quelqu’un a le droit de m’en faire voir sans raison….

« T’inquiète pas maman, je te ferais assez de petits fils pour te nourrir, te porter et t’habiller. »

Je rigole, elle me jette un livre dessus, ma mère…Je leur ramènerais l’argent j’ai qu’une parole moi, comme mon père, mais bon ça serait pas un mariage sans une lune de miel a Cap Skirring, y’a pas de mal a se faire du bien….

« Imbécile ! Qu’est ce que tu nous a fait ?! Elle est morte maintenant ! Ça a servi a quoi ?! Ça a servit a quoi ?!  »

Il essaie de se jeter sur moi, mais un des vieux lui colle une gifle, et il s’arrête, sonné, la force du coup s’ajoutant à la déshydratation  l’a remis en place, il se laisse tomber dans la barque, se roule dans un coin et pleure. Je ne connais même pas son nom d’ailleurs, et m’en fout bien, tout ce que je me souviens c’est que depuis le départ il panique, fait peur à tout le monde et pourri l’ambiance. Je n’ai pas la force de lui répondre, ni l’envie, je préfère rêver… En m’endormant une idée folle me traverse la tête et je me rends compte que j’ai toujours été plus libre dans ma tête que dans ma vie, c’est pas le moment de penser comme ça…

« Arrête Isma, tu sais bien qu’on a pas les moyens… »

Ses arguments je les connais, elle me les répète sans cesse, tant mieux d’ailleurs, sinon ça fait bien longtemps que je serais banqueroute, mais qu’est ce qu’elle veut que je fasse ? Pour avoir du succès il faut une image de réussite. « L’habit ne fait pas le moine », mon cul ouais, et ce costume c’est un gage de qualité pour les toubabs, je suis plus respectable comme ça, il faut se distinguer de la compétition, les caresser dans le sens du poil, et Mbour c’est pas donné, le restaurant a Saly non plus, il a fallu investir, être plus original, plus intelligent…

« Ne t’inquiète pas bébé, on a un peu de malchance, c’est les douleurs de croissance, on a mal parce qu’on grandit, on va s’en sortir… »

Mais à vrai dire je n’y crois plus trop non plus, et elle le sent dans ma voix. On s’améliore, et l’argent sort malgré tout, et il n’y a pas assez de clients pour tout le monde, les hôtels ne me laissent pas construire à proximité, ils disent aux gens de se méfier de nous…Quel culot ! Ils construisent chez nous et nous font passer pour des voleurs ! C’est eux les voleurs ouais, et la pollution dans les villages alors ?! Et les canalisations d’eau sale qui remontent sur les places ou les petits vont jouer ?! On ne peut même pas se payer le dispensaire…

 

Quelque chose de visqueux me frappe le visage et me tires de ma rêverie. Le couard sans nom de tout à l’heure se tient au dessus de moi, tanguant avec la pirogue, un peu de la salive qu’il vient de me cracher à la figure encore au coin de ses lèvres. J’ai du somnoler un moment, le ciel c’est éclairci, et l’aube pointe a l’horizon. J ‘essuie ma joue et d’un coup sec rejette son crachat sur ce qui reste de son bermuda.

« T’es qu’un con Ismael. Je l’ai su au premier coup d’oeuil mais ils n’ont pas voulu m’écouter. »

Il commence à rire, un rire dément, sans humour, un sourire qui ne touche jamais ses yeux mais déforme ce qui est visible de son visage contre l’aube. C’est la faim, la faim lui fait oublier ou il est, ce qu’il risque et lui donne le courage de l’illuminé dans le désert prêt a tout pour croire en l’oasis qu’il sait n’existe pas. Il rigole cet abruti, il croit sûrement m’impressionner son corps chétif secoué de grelots contre le soleil, son visage n’est plus qu’une ombre, il ouvre la bouche pour parler, je commence a ouvrir la mienne prêt a lui dire de la fermer avant que je ne le noie mais sa voix prend de l’ampleur et semble venir d’ailleurs.

« Tu as voulu faire le héros Ismael, Ismael champion des infortunés et roi des damnés, mais tu as perdu Ismael, tu peux avoir toutes leurs vies sur la conscience, tu peux jouer le martyr si tu veux mais ma vie est a moi. »

La faim doit me jouer des tours aussi, ma tête tourne avec chaque mot qu’il crache en ma direction. Je me lève pour le regarder droit dans les yeux mais il me pousse du pied contre le bois, regarde vers le ciel, et plonge dans l’eau glacée…je me précipite contre le bord de la pirogue, mais mon bras est trop court et effleure a peine son talon.

« Laisse le Ismaël. » me dit un des vieux « Il a fait son choix. »

Nous le regardons s’éloigner, derrière la troisième vague il disparaît soudainement et réapparaît plus loin, encore une vague et il réapparaît encore, mais après plus longtemps, encore une vague, et il ne remonte plus.

Le vieux me met la main sur l’épaule.

« Tu ne peux pas t’en vouloir Ismael, nous aurions tous fait la même chose si nous avions pu. Il ne s’attendait pas à ce que ça vienne de toi. Quoiqu’il arrive ce n’était pas ta faute.’

Ouais ils auraient tous fait la même chose, sauf que personne n’avait rien fait, il l’ont juste laissée la a hurler jusqu’a ce que je…connard de Famera, ah il le connait son métier ça…et on est plus que neuf…

Allah qu’elle ne se réveille pas, pitié…

Je la couvre doucement du drap, pour qu’elle garde chaud et ne se réveille pas subitement alertée par mon absence. Je regarde le dernier bout de son épaule disparaître sous le tissu, le chocolat de sa peau disparaître et ses cheveux, attachés en que de cheval pour la nuit sont la dernière chose que je vois d’elle…a-t-elle jamais porté des vêtements ? Dans ma tête non, dans les images que je me forme en essuyant les gouttes d’eau salée sur ma figure elle est nue comme au premier jour et belle et souriante, parfois colérique et rusée, parfois triste mais splendide, dans sa tristesse une tragédie africaine…je n’ose même pas lui déposer un baiser chaste sur le front, elle le sentira, et si elle se réveille, je n’aurais pas la force de la confronter, je ne trouverais pas le courage de partir…

Mon choix est fait de toute façon, autant abréger les souffrances, j’ai dit non à Abidjan et au Cap, non à Nairobi aussi, qu’est ce que je vais faire à aller chercher fortune dans des pays qui se cherchent encore…Famera est sur de lui, et nous sommes vingt a partir, avec assez de vivres pour une semaine, de quoi festoyer tout du long il dit …

Je lui aie laissé la lettre qu’elle m’avait demandée. Qui va la lui lire ? Comment ne pas être sur qu’un de ses petits sai-sai venu de l’intérieur comme nous ne vont pas en profiter pour détourner mes mots et lui faire croire en un abandon lâche et sans cœur de ma part, mais elle est intelligente, combien de gens lettrés se sont retrouvés devant elle, malades a se rendre compte que la jeune inculte debout devant eux peut les tourner en bourrique sans effort…elle trouvera quelqu’un de confiance inch’allah, et elle pardonnera, et attendra…je lui ait laissé assez pour rentrer au village et vivre la bas comme une reine le temps de mon départ, si Famera n’était pas la, je la laisserais bredouille, et qui pourrait faire ça ? Mais je perds trop de temps à réfléchir, trop de temps à penser et chaque minute qui passe le lit reste vide…

« Je ne serais pas long. » dis-je en tirant doucement la porte derrière moi.

Dans trois jours, quatre tout au plus, les Iles Canaries, et après cela l’Espagne et les portes ouvertes à l’Europe, qu’y faire je ne sais pas, mais je retrouverais l’Espagnol, et il me donnera un coup de main j’en suis sur, et puis comme ça peut être ma mère sera-t-elle fière de moi ? La plage n’est plus qu’à une vingtaine de mètres, et nous sommes tous prêts…

 

Je peux lire la peur dans les yeux de beaucoup d’entre nous. Famera et ses beaux discours les rassure quelque peu, mais un manchot capitaine ? Bah, on est vingt, de quoi se relayer derrière les rames et compenser son manque par notre force. Sans un mot nous embarquons les vivres à bord et les bombonnes d’eau, un festin comme dit Famera. Je remarque que comme moi, tous sont venus seuls. Certains le sont peut être tout simplement, mais je crois qu’on a tous la même histoire, personne ne veut être vu en train de fuir, personne ne veut faire des promesses qu’il n’est pas sur de tenir, personne ne veut abandonner les siens et les regarder droit dans les yeux ce faisant…Alors on monte tous en silence. Je reste derrière avec Mustafa, un petit jeune de Louga, pas plus de seize ans je dirais, pour pousser la pirogue à flots et nous lancer dans l’aventure…dans trois jours, quatre au maximum un autre monde…

 

Quatre jours plus tard, il n’y a plus trace des Iles canaries qu’il n’y a trace de Tokyo…

Personne n’a fait le grand plongeon ses deux derniers jours, mais personne n’en a la force. Nous prenons a peine un verre d’eau par personne et par jour, et la bombonne se vide sous nos yeux. Je n’avais jamais vu le soleil comme ça, il te frappe au visage sans pitié, il se reflète sur l’eau et t’éblouis. La nuit le vent bat la pirogue de droite a gauche, nord sud, est ouest, comment savoir ou l’on est ? L’Afrique doit être proche mais comment en être sur ? Qui a la force de ramer ? La nuit je suis reconnaissant au vent malgré tout qui emporte l’odeur d’excréments au loin, je souris en me disant que quelqu’un sur la côte doit en attraper une effluve et mettre une claque a son voisin…mais je n’ai la force de rire que dans ma tête, mes lèvres sont trop sèches et chaque sourire me fait mal. Le plus difficile c’est de regarder les vieux, ils dorment toute la journée, un jour, si il en reste, un ne se réveillera pas, et qui le jettera par-dessus bord ? Est ce que quelqu’un essaiera de le manger ? Ce sont la mes préoccupations, je sais qui le jettera : MOI, moi parce que personne d’autre ne semble conscient, tous perdus dans leur rêverie, leurs songes, leurs regrets, ceux qu’ils ont laissé derrière avec des promesses pleines d’eau salée, et Nabou, Nabou au village inch’allah, coiffant ma mère le matin, peut être même ce matin.

Une bagarre a éclaté hier, elle n’a pas durée longtemps, Mustafa a essayé de se ruer sur la bombonne d’eau mais il n’a même pas la force de marcher, Mamadou l’a frappé, un coup de poing ridicule, et Mustafa a pleuré, pleuré toute la nuit durant, le peu d’eau dans son corps se vidant avec les larmes. Il n’a peut être même pas eu le choix, moi au moins j’ai choisit, j’ai fait le mauvais choix, mais j’ai choisit, lui c’est sa famille qui a insisté, qui a-t-il laissé derrière, ou est sa Nabou ?

Et les deux vieux dont je ne connais même pas le nom. Elle avec son regard voilé sous ses yeux maintenant fermés, lui avec son chapelet, serré dans son poing fermé, que pensaient ils ? A leur age ? Qu’ils allaient devenir footballeur, ballerine ? Je rigole encore dans ma tête, rien que l’idée d’elle tentant un grand écart est trop pour mon pauvre cerveau, encore un jour, deux maximum, et la bombonne sera vide, et la…

Une semaine maintenant, et le festin arrive à son terme, un bout de pain par jour est tout ce que l’on peut se permettre en espérant arriver bientôt. Famera lui, fume, et fume, et fume, si il y une chose dont il n’est pas a court c’est bien de ganja, et ça, ça va pas nous aider, malgré ses mots braves je sens bien que lui aussi a des doutes, mais il le cache bien…

« Ecoute Famera… »

Il me repousse.

« Fout moi la paix ! Tu es qui toi, tu veux donner des conseils ?! Ferme ta gueule et rame ! »

Son attitude commence a m’énerver, on peut prendre les gens de haut quand on a raison, mais pas quand on la vie de vingt personnes entre ses main, dans sa main et passe ses journées défoncer a rigoler tout seul, et son regard lorgne sur Aissatou qui a quinze ans et le remarque bien et fais de son mieux pour l’ignorer. Alors je rame, mais le rêve est brisé, mais l’espoir n’est pas perdu, pas encore, alors je rame…

 

On me secoue doucement l’épaule, je résiste un peu, une brise s’est levée et apporte un peu de fraîcheur sous le soleil, j’avais oublié ou j’étais d’ailleurs, et ma désorientation au réveil s’ajoute a l’horreur de ce que j’ai sous les yeux : Mustafa est mort, ou en train de, son bras est pendu au dessus du navire, ses dents et bouche ensanglantés, je le tire vers moi, et le sang de son artère coule dans la pirogue et m’éclabousse le visage. Ses yeux sont vides et distants et il respire a peine, seize ans, peut être, la vieille est allongée par terre, sa position n’a pas changée depuis que je l’ai regardée mais au premier coup d’oeuil je remarque qu’elle ne respire plus, cela n’aide pas que le vieux regarde au loin, derrière la pirogue ou une tache sombre flotte a la surface de l’eau. Je n’ai pas besoin de demander, a quoi bon, un regard rapide sur le peux que nous sommes est suffisant, Mamadou aussi nous a quitté…Je me demande bien ce qui peux motiver un homme a se laisser mourir alors qu’il y a un lendemain même douloureux, je me souvient d’un morceau de hip hop attrapé sur le CD d’un touriste a Mbour : Frerot, rien ne sert de courir, j’ai demain pour mourir, mène ma vie du mieux q’je peux mes deux mains pour me nourrir. On est a bout de course, deux mains qui ne servent a rien, un lendemain douteux et une vie qui ne nous mène a la mort…

C’est le troisième jour sans vivre, et pour ce que j’en vois sans capitaine, mais je rame, je rame, et la nuit je dors, ce que je peux la où il y a de la place…

J’entends un hurlement, un cri strident qui me tire brutalement de ma torpeur, Famera est debout au dessus de Aissatou, un couteau a la main, déjà maculé de sang, et un corps par a la dérive a coté de la pirogue, ainsi vont les héros dans le monde réel, Aissatou hurle, elle hurle, chaque cri réveillant quelque chose en moi que je ne savais pas exister. Je pense à Nabou, ses yeux, ses formes, son rire, ses lèvres, ou est elle maintenant ? Y a t’il un Famera debout au dessus d’elle nu comme un ver un couteau a la main ? Est-ce ma mère qui est allongée par terre a coté dont le sang macule la lame ? Est ce ma faute ? Évidemment ! Quel homme abandonne sa femme ? Quel homme prend la fuite et laisse sa famille derrière ? Et que pensais je que l’Europe allait me relâcher après m’avoir accroché a ses charmes ? La reverrais je jamais ? Lui enverrais je l’argent promis dans la lettre, sera t elle même vivante, en proie aux Fameras de ce monde ? Tout cela me traverse en un instant, mais ce qui me tue, ce qui abat le reste de foi en moi c’est le silence des autres, le silence détourné et faible, ils n’osent même pas regarder, même participer serait une marque d’identité, de force ; mais non ils tournent le dos, certains chantent « ndeysan, ndeysan » ne se rendent ils pas compte que leur musique doit rajouter a sa terreur, a sa solitude ? Ou chantent ils pour eux-mêmes ?

« Tu vas la laisser tranquille Famera. » Je ne prends pas la peine de hausser le ton ; ni de le menacer, cela ne sert a rien dans un cas comme ça il n’y a qu’une seule voie a suivre…

« Ah le rameur se révolte, il y a mutinerie ma parole. »

Le con ; il me connaît pourtant ; et il n’a qu’une main. Que va-t-il faire lorsque je m’approcherais de lui, comment va-t-il garder son équilibre après le premier coup, comment va-t-il se parer mes coups ? Mais ça, ce sont ses problèmes…

Je ne perds pas de temps a lui répondre, mais me rue sur lui, il se retourne vif comme un serpent et sa lame effleure mon bras, je lui colle mon poing sur le nez, le couteau lui tombe des mains, j’essaie de l’attraper mais il se ressaisit vite, et dans notre élan nous secouons la barque trop fort, qui penche dangereusement et tombons a l’eau, mais maintenant, c’est moi qui ait le couteau…

Si je n’avais pas été tremblant de rage ; l’esprit embrumé par des images de Nabou plus terribles les unes que les autres j’aurais réfléchi à deux fois…

D’autres nous suivent dans la mer, les autres parviennent à faire contrepoids et rééquilibrer la barque. Famera est en dessous de moi, et me tire de sa main dans l’eau, je le chasse d’un coup de pied, plonge et poignarde sans même viser, relâchant toute ma rage dans des élans freinés par le poids de l’eau ou tout se ralentit, ou pour chaque seconde j’ai une heure de vie, et ou, loin de ma conscience aveugle, avec chaque coup de couteau je nous rapproche tous de la mort…

Son corps remonte a la surface, l’eau maculée de sang entoure la pirogue, haletant, je tends la main vers les autres, mais aucun n’ose me toucher, et qui leur en voudrait, un fou enragé, dégoulinant d’hémoglobine au regard furieux, mais je suis a bout de souffle et si ils ne m’aident pas…

Je vois le visage d’Aissatou, et sa main se tendre vers moi, et Mustafa derrière qui la retient qu’elle ne perde pas l’équilibre et tous deux me font remonter.

Je jette le couteau par-dessus bord et m’adresse aux autres passagers :

« Je suppose que je vous doit des remerciements. »

Mais ils ne m’écoutent pas, tous sont tournés vers le corps de Famera que le courant emporte le long du navire, et la…la je comprends tout, la je me rends compte que dans ma haine, j’ai perdu la raison, et que pour le bien de tous il aurait mieux valu que je meure, mais je n’aurais jamais laissé Aissatou comme ça, par ce que la, inconscient romantique que je suis, j’ai tué la seule personne capable de nous guider…

 

Dois je en dire plus ? A quoi bon ? Il n’y a plus que le vieux et moi, nous n’avons plus d’eau, plus de force, nous nous tenons tous deux a l’opposé l’un de l’autre, lui en queue de la pirogue et moi en proue. Je n’ai plus la force de penser, ni de me souvenir, tout ce que je vois est l’image de ma femme, en filigrane le long du ciel, mais elle ne m’est plus réelle, elle est une étrangère, un fantasme, toute une vie nous sépare maintenant, la distance est minime, le temps l’est encore plus ; cette pirogue s’est véritablement transformée en vaisseau spatial au final et m’a téléportée sans bouger…le vieux me fait un faible signe de la main, je lui réponds sans cœur ; conscient tout de même que du monde et de l’humanité, qui m’était si proche et si cher, il n’y a plus que lui, et dans ces derniers moments, il n’y a jamais eu que lui, ébahi, je le voit faire appel a ses dernières forces, se hisser debout, s’appuyant sur un banc. Il me fait un dernier signe de la main et se laisse tomber à l’eau. Il est sûrement mort avant de l’avoir touchée…

Le soleil me brûle véritablement maintenant, ma peau est desséchée, je remercie dieu de ne pas avoir de miroir, de ne pas avoir la force de voir mon propre reflet dans l’eau. Mais une chose reste sur, je ne mourrais pas dans cette pirogue. Qu’elle aille en enfer ou au Cap Vert, mais ça sera sans moi, moi, Ismael, je mourrais libre, je parcourrais le peu de chemin que la vie m’autorisera encore à parcourir et je mourrais libre, les yeux tournés vers les cieux et mon esprit dans l’océan…

Je me lève a mon tour, chaque muscle, chaque articulation criant de douleur a chaque mouvement et me laisse aller, tomber a mon tour dans la mer qui m’avait semblée, il y a une éternité de cela comme mon seul espoir…

Je me laisse bercer par les vagues, sous le soleil de la fin d’après midi, et le vent m’amène une odeur connue, une odeur de sable battu par les vents, au loin a gauche, je vois les reflets du désert et la ligne de la côte, mais je n’y arriverais jamais, et pourtant au loin je crois distinguer une jeune femme me faisant signe, agitant la main en ma direction, nue comme au premier jour, son corps absorbant la lumière, mon regard, mes yeux, et ma vie, Nabou…

« Nabou ! Nabou ! Où vas-tu ?! Ca ne sert a rien de courir ! Quand il t’écrira tu auras sa lettre, en attendant aide moi avec le feu ! »

« Je ne peux pas t’aider aujourd’hui Mame Fatou, il doit être arrivé maintenant, et je lui manque comme il me manque. Tiens prends cet argent, il te sera utile jusqu’à ce que nous t’en envoyons plus, ce soir, je pars le rejoindre… »

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Internet Story (The final thoughts of some guy about to get shot in the face)

The story started with a gun shot. Creeping darkness seemed to permeate the area, and although seemingly alive no one would have expected the shadows to move with such blinding malevolent speed.

And it was her, I should have known. It had to be her, it was always her. Damn she was the very reason I am here. Caught between the proverbial rock and the hard place, and out of Marlboros. It just had to happen now too, not that it matters anymore I’ll be in no shape to tell this story in two seconds from now. And that’s only if she is merciful, but when has a woman ever been? Chewed my heart, spit it like bad tobacco, and now I’m hopin’ this endless barrel is a lighter. But let me backtrack for a second…

There is a reason why most stalkers are men. First let me tell you that we do not think of it as stalking; pursuing, seductively wooing in the age-old tradition of the minstrel under the railing, Rapunzel and her braid. Would anybody have sent Romeo to jail, or locked up ugly old Cyrano for having a busted boxer’s nose before his time and the mighty pen to match his sword skills? We’d be illiterate…

Anyway there is a reason why most stalkers are men, and that’s because I haven’t met a man yet who would consciously deny a woman the right to pursue him and try hard as hell to lay him. Hell it’s too often us on the other end of that line to not enjoy the attention when it happens. And if the lady turns out to be a psycho? Well then you get the occasional restraining order and the odd laugh at the face of some distraught bird in the papers, but no one takes it seriously.

Have me follow a chick around incessantly and next thing you know I’m talking to Larry King from behind bars, Howard Stern is spoofing me while rubbing a porn’s stars implants, and she is crying it off on Oprah’s new Gucci blouse while her book is selling millions…

Talk of fair under the sun…

Passing on all the details, that’s how I ended up here, facing her, and itching with withdrawal. The cigarette industry is full of shit let me tell you, every time you think you can make it through the day with less than half a pack, something’s gotta remind you you’re a closet crackhead…But you probably wanna know more right?

The damn “Public’s Right to Know”…

And why all this talk about stalkers you might ask while you’re at it? Please don’t be shy now, not now that you’ve got me going…

I have never stalked anybody, not that you’d think so by my introductory statement, but really never, and the last thing I expected was to be stalked by her. Or by anybody. It’s all gotta do with Myspace.com, and the virtual world of Internet “communication”, call it whatever you want its a major fuckfest out there, wherever “there” is between the folds of space. The best one is Migente.com, every damn Nuyorican, Dominican, Wannabe Cuban Refugee is up on it talking about upholding the culture. Just as long as they wear rubbers, and remember that Herpes has no cure…

So I hooked up my page at Myspace, same as everybody, pictures to make me look better than I am (which is pretty good, no joke) and a whole bunch of personality type shit as if the crap you pour on your web page has got anything to do with your natural abilities, but such is the beauty of the Web, every one is a virtual god, Job the Lawnmower Man, a retard with a computer…

Anyway she came up pretty late on my list, after I had deleted a potential few. Their pics were way too much, and plus any chick who throws herself at you like that, virtual or not, half naked on a web cam…well you get my drift, back to Migente and a little visit from Santa Herpes every few years if you’ve been a good boy…

The thing is this; I got a thing for older women. No joke. I do. I like me an experienced mama, but hey she actually had me going: no picture, I was blocked off her page, and could only chat her panties down when she chose so. Which was pretty often, but not so often. Well, whatever she did, one day I ended up in the 15th precinct in Honolulu, high on X with a major headache and two broken ribs….

“Hey q-t how bout Honolulu?”

Now has anybody ever got a one liner charged with such rampant Spring Break sexuality? Certainly not yours truly. Many things have stayed in South Beach and Cancun, and in Panama City, and in St Thomas…and in Jamaica, many more I straight up forgot, and all for the good I’m sure, but I’m goin’ on thirty, although not for much longer, and how more secret a rendezvous than waiting for Pipeline to wash your love making off the sandy beaches?

Anyway, I had never been to Honolulu, hated Bay Watch Hawaii, and if she had suggested anything continental I would have found a reason to ignore her…well maybe not, but this is my story anyway. If you wanna read hers just check the headlines tomorrow, this is a residential neighborhood, if a back alley and that 357 will make noise to deafen a blearing elephant.

We fixed the date for April 20th, at that very time, if anybody has missed the reference then you were probably that nerd in College studying for his midterms, wedgie to his glasses’ elastic band, and a dick graffittied on his door.

Fat Tuesday’s. My spot. The best Southern Comfort Hurricane there is and nothing but drunkards with fake I.D. What the fuck was I thinking? I had never even seen the bitch (lady readers you’ll have to excuse me but there’s only so much you can say about a chick staring you down with a big fuckin’ gun), but as with all things romantic and cheezy the clichés remain true: we all linger for that one blind date that answers all our questions, from the dumbest contestants on Dismissed, to Fiona in Shrek, or just Shamiqua on the block, guys included, so I dialed up, typed my credit card number down, booked the no smoker window seat, and was ready to roll with no time for jet lag. United Airlines flight 934 landing at Honululu Int at 3/20 on 4/20. Bags you’d say? Didn’t bother had my swim trunks under my Result Jeans, crisp and baggy and off for Waikiki baby!

By 4/20 the next morning I had stopped waiting for her. I was shit faced out of my head, and there was no doubt someone had slipped something in my drink. Now I had talked to nothing but underage girls all night, so I was quite sure I hadn’t run into her by accident, nor had I ever considered then that the slick shorty was actually there observing me until I was distracted enough to slip a tab in my SoCo…next thing you know I’m sky rocket high, the earth a pebble from the Magellanic Cloud and my hands all over some 17 year old titties…

I swear she said 18 your honor!

He believed me about as much as Lieutenant Kawaihie who had happily bashed in a few of my ribs, bloodied my nose and blackened my eyeball. I’m too dark skinned to bruise easily, damn Polynesians, the chick could have been a line backer, I like to think I landed a few good ones, but lets face it she wasn’t the one facing the judge looking like Jeffrey Dahmer on a bad day with traces of every drug including human urine in her system…don’t ask, I must have pissed the bar tender off. I was shipped back to Continental America on the next thing smokin’ and a three month sentence to rehab, community service at the Methadone Clinic on 161st and Grant on top of a year long probation…Yankee Stadium here I come…

And we just had to lose…mother-fucking Red Sox, break an eighty six year old jinx in a historical comeback, losing three nothing in the American Series finals (World Series semi finals for those who don’t know) and beating us at Yankee Stadium game 7 of the series…Fuck.

Anyway, I didn’t hear from boo in a minute. Good thing too, I would have punched my computer into buying myself a new one. Who in the short history of the Homo Sapien ever got stood up in Hawaii. My boy Nick used to say “Man, I couldn’t even get laid in Hawaii!” Well I got news for you Nick, neither can I…

I blocked her off. No way I was gonna talk to her, or chat, type, whatever you wanna call this “I’m trying to get laid can I at least get some head?” tryin’ too hard to be innovative bullshit. Fuck the Internet. The Onion said something funny the other day in their horoscope by Lloyd Schumer Retired Machinist: “As you by a new webcam, virtual simulator and sign up for Skype, you will find the fine line between technophile and pedophile becoming even more blurry.” Fuck the Internet.

Six months happily went by until I get a new email from some unknown broad saying: “Dick.”

What?! I mean who?! And yeah what?!

“You cheating fuck.”

Real cold shit. Who?!

“Not fifteen minutes and you were cheating on me.”

Huh?! Needless to say in six months I hadn’t given what’s her face a thought, well except every time I had to give a damn crakhead the Nancy Reagan line. If that really worked, we would have “just said no” to her husband in Office. From shitty actor to shittier President, well, he was better than our Commander in Chief now, at least he was continuing a war not making one up…

“Bitch, I don’t fucking know you!”

I mean really I don’t even know her name. And I was cheating on her?

“I saw you with that girl! Is that what you do? Jack off to 90210?! Fucker.”

BLOCK YOU OFF.

Now some people think that it’s important to have a come back. I don’t. Coming back at somebody falls right into their little attention seeking game and I’d rather ignore them. Why? Cuz personally I never felt worse than when I’m talking to thin air, with my verbal adversary going: “Uh huh yeah right.”

Next thing you know I’m getting two hundred mails a day. I mean literally Two Hundred, and all from her. Who is she? Can anybody tell me? Because I really would like to know right now given that she is about to shoot me in the face. And the thing was this, every day, all, and I mean All, the mails were from different monikers (nicknames, nick is short for moniker for those who never read Iceberg Slim novels), so I could BLOCK YOU OFF as much as I wanted she had found her way right through my control pad.

So I signed off Myspace. It was only a matter of time really, plus I’m getting laid anyway, she just made it easier, and the next day there goes my window glass, and I live on the thirty second floor…

So at first I was thinking, kids, maybe, my neighbor, she’s been mad at me for the last year since I accidentally dyed all her clothes pink with my underwear in the basement, but the 32nd floor rules out kids, unless he’s one hell of a little leaguer, and would have required a boomerang from my neighbor, which a two pound stone is not last time checked unless the immutable laws of physics and gravity have been reversed over Midtown, which they might have been, or so would David Blaine lead to believe…

The next day, however, every single one of her new emails and each again from the new alias name, (I mean is this chick Jared or something?) was titled:

Broken Heart, Broken Glass.

I actually read the first five, pointless really, but what the hell? And check this out:

Death is but a door,

Time is but a window,

I will be back.

I mean yo, shorty had actually quoted Vigo. Vigo! The Scourge of Carpathia, The Terror of Moldavia, the one man that even Bill Murray got scared of, and I don’t have Lady Liberty or proton packs at my disposal to knock her out if it comes to that…

I’m about to sound really slow, but with that came back her message saying she had been in the bar observing back in sunny, blurry-as-all-fuck Hawaii, and the X…Yeah I know slow, but then I was just pissed off, which dulls your wits, the best is being pissed off but drunk, then you can do some serious thinking.

I started checking every room in my apartment, which didn’t take long, rent doesn’t match size in New York City unless rent triples with each floor so that even the Atmosphere ain’t free these days, but anyway, she wasn’t inside my house, but that’s when I started thinking, that doesn’t mean she’s not inside my building

Boom, down to the lobby, to find out if anybody, female preferably, had not rented out a flat in my tower. No go. So I ran across the street to the building opposite my own, even from there it would have been a hell of a shot, but it was a better theory than a 500ft little leaguer.

It turns out that yeah someone had rented a spot in that building. And when? Just eight months ago. And where? On the 33rd floor. This was my chance. I started firing questions at the Doorman, who gave me that patient New Yorkers-are-all-self involved-assholes nod, before answering:

“I couldn’t say sir, the va et viens are intense here. This is New York City.”

And there goes that fuck-you-self involved-New York-Asshole-you can’t-touch-me-I-am-doing-my-job smile. “Va et Viens!”  Do I look like Francois to you motherfucker?!

The Manager was in no better a position to be of any assistance (isn’t America supposed to be the land of customer service?), because the apartment had been rented out by a man, not a lady, no sir, and his name had been? Check it out! Marcus Eric Dyson, MED, which is why all my friends call me Doc…

I’m not Tyler Durden, I’m not Johnny Depp in Secret Window, I’m no fuckin’ schyzo (I realize that my language has dropped quite a few levels in standard since I started this single perspective narrative dear reader, or listener if anybody’s there, but those were trying moments), there must be a hundred Marcus Eric Dysons in New York for all I knew, but check this out:

Our signatures matched.

Now after I babbled my story out at him and convinced him of my long arm in matters of the Law, he agreed to let me see the lease. Any forensics expert would have concluded that the hand writings were different, but it was MY signature; and the flat was empty. Whoever had lived there for the past eight months, enjoying a donut by the long view, boxed seats for the Marcus Eric Dyson Show had packed up and left.

There were no furniture in the apartment, something like that would have been noticed by my favorite Doorman, the bath tub had not been washed in at least eight months (the look of utter revulsion at both the grime and the cost to get it cleaned on the manager’s face did lighten my day a little), and flies buzzed in the stinking bedroom over the white turned brown floor mat, I’ll pass the details on the toilet bowl. In case I didn’t use enough words to paint a picture (which is a thousand by the way, no more no less) anybody who has seen Buffalo Bill’s basement before Clarice got to him will know exactly what I’m saying. I was half expecting to find a previous victim hanging with his skin peeled off and: “Too slow Slick” carved across his chest.

NYPD was of no more assistance than the other two, I mean try filing a complaint against a virtual stalker, whose name you don’t know, who’s face you’ve never seen, while on probation for attempt at statutory rape because you were stupid enough to follow her, who apparently is YOU, all the way to Hawaii for a first date. The other pig actually said: “Hell I wouldn’t cross the Mason-Dixon Line for pussy.” Lard ass…Well there was nothing they could do they said but lock her up for being a smelly chick, and that was no crime under New York State Law, but maybe I could file a federal complaint with the Bureau of Sanitation. That’s the one problem with cops, you can’t beat ‘em up.

I went all the way to Alphabet city the Loizada as Porto Ricans say, only to stumble into a bar whose owner was this wannabe rock star called Sean, insisting on playing what he thought was gonna be the next big hit by his band called My Best Fiend, I guess that makes him a gonnabe, and which song? “My Psycho”. Wow, My Psycho, by My Best Fiend, that’s way original Sean, I think you got something there. Care for the hook? “My Psychooo! Is breaking my windoow….” I ran the fuck out of there without paying for my Long Island…

I was so dazed, anguished and all around fucked up by the time I got home, which was late, drunk and famished that I didn’t pay any attention to the new reception lady in my building…

I woke up in the middle afternoon. Well woke up doesn’t quite say it; I bolted up in mid afternoon. Ever watched a western? You see what happens when a grazing cow hears a gunshot? Well that’s how I woke up, fully clothed cotton mouthed and a hangover from here to Beijing and back, via the Atlantic both ways.

The one thing I can be grateful for is that alcohol kills your dreams apparently, and so does heroin, or so said Kurt Cobain. Thank God I didn’t have dreams, Allah, Yahweh, whoever the fuck, even good old Kurt. Should never have called his band Nirvana by the way, maybe he was trying to get to it, but then, why all the drugs? Liquor? Courtney Love? Maybe he was afraid of his dreams. Maybe. Either that or he had to wake up next to Courtney and it was already hard enough having to pass out next to Courtney, so the last thing you wanted to do was to have to think about Courtney while you slept…

But I’m drifting…I bolted up, fully clothed and cotton mouthed as fuck, I can’t remember who was Cotton Mouth in Kill Bill, maybe Lucy Liu… anyway that look on her face when she realized she had just been scalped clean, that’s probably how I’m gonna look in a fraction of a second, except that gat ain’t no Hatori Hanzo, no way José, I’m gonna feel that bullet let me tell you…

The least I could have done was take a shower and change, but that was the last thing on my mind. The first thing being: Why among all the fools mama raised in spite of numerous claims to the contrary had I returned right to the building, floor, apartment and bedroom where she, Marcus Eric Dyson Double D, knew that I stayed at?!

I ran for the door, bumped my head right against it, stumbled back against the wall, and couldn’t find my keys. I turned my apartment inside out; they were exactly where I’d left them the night before: in the pants I had slept in, in the pocket I had patted fifteen times without once putting my hand in it.

They say the definition of insanity is repeating the same behavior over and again and expecting different results. Whoever genius came up with that one lived in a world where items had never been shrunk to fit fifty to a two inch pocket, must’ve lived around the 12th century where you had to have forearms the size of Hulk Hogan’s thighs to carry a set of keys. Remember The Name of the Rose? (Not just the sex scene we all remember that) but every time they had to open a door? Or turn a page in a book for that matter? It looked like it took all the energy in an Extra Value Meal to make it through the preface. No wonder no one could read back in the day, who would want too? Not after you had already toiled all day in the field beating slaves, chewing on a straw…

Once I had put my hand on the key, I unlocked the top lock, and popped my head outside, looking down the hallway for any motion or flash of a Hatori Hanzo. The neighbor across the hall from me is a bona fide voyeur too; he must be looking through the peephole having a field day. But you probably wanna know what actually happened after my paranoia subsided, not my endless rant in fifteen square feet…

When I reached the lobby, I realized that in spite of all my previous reasoning (thank you mama), my apartment was the safest place for me to be, just as long as it was empty when I walked in and shut the door behind me. Everywhere else, anywhere else and any other member of the majority gender on this planet was not…

The guy at the reception desk caught my bleary eyes, and the sweet cologne whose fragrance only a dozen Long Island Ice Teas truly blends and handed me a postcard. Well not really a postcard, one of those cards you make out of a snap shot. It was a picture of me, sitting in Sean’s bar viewed from the bathroom and it read:

If I show you the roses, will you follow?

I love that song now, I do. Where The Wild Roses Grow by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds featuring Kylie Minogue, I just wonder every time how Elisa Day hadn’t seen it coming…The reception guy, Jim, his name tag said, was grinning at me:

“You must have made quite an impression on her last night.”

And that grin as if I had been caught making out with the ugliest chick in the bar. Who?! Who motherfucker?! Impression on who?! Jim wasn’t grinning so hard anymore, and God was my head throbbing. The temp last night, the girl sitting right behind this desk is who. Jeez pall, I’m just saying….

I thought back to what I was thinking outside the elevator. By the time I managed to get my head back that is, with Jim reaching slowly under his desk for the security button, and considered heading back up, work from home, order take out Chinese and weed delivery service for the rest of my life. But by then she could already be inside my house, I couldn’t get lucky twice, and how would I know who would be delivering my food anyway?

I kept looking out the back window of the cab and back at the post card. Hakeem better make it to Queens and fast, but that’s not gonna happen not caught in late afternoon NYC traffic; only place worse is Bangkok, I’d be lucky if I made it before nightfall, and in this traffic anybody who could follow me was worthy of getting stalked by, I mean that’s some serious detective skills we’re talking here. Why Queens? Cuz I absolutely loathe the place, so there’s no chance of me getting distracted there…

How could he have been so stupid?

Any suspense flick where the bad guy wins bears that inevitable question. How could the good guy, who had been so smart up to that very moment, suddenly make the dumbest mistake that cost him is life?

Well I got the answer now; he was stupid because you only realize how stupid you are when it’s too late to do a damn thing about it.

You get stupid because you get secure, because once the panic recedes, once the adrenaline fades out of your system, you start thinking like a damned fool again, and you forget for that second too long exactly in what shit you are. You get comfortable for one second, disregard the wrong noise, take the wrong turn, the turn that just fifteen seconds ago you would have never took, and that’s when everybody and their mama goes: How could he have been so stupid?

I got stupid cuz I got lost in my thoughts, I got stupid because I thought: Well, I’ve been alone for at least fifteen minutes maybe I can allow myself a breath, and a smoke. So I made that turn down that back alley, started looking through my pockets for my Marlboros, found them, realized my pack was empty, and that’s when I heard a muttered word (They called me the Wild Row-woze, but my nayme was Eerik Die-son), and turned around upon the endless barrel hoping it was a lighter and back to square fuckin one. Had the chick planted this song in my head on purpose so that would be the last song I’d sing?

So here I am staring down the barrel of a gun, in pitch darkness, facing her a woman I cannot see and have never seen, whose name I didn’t know, singing a twist to the creepiest song I had ever heard hoping that somebody would please get Riddick so he could tell me at least what the fuck she looked like in this area permeating creeping darkness of blinding malevolently fast shadows, thinking: Damn how could I have been so stupid?

And for a second there I actually believe that I will have time to get some answers, understand, figure what the hell had happened? And why me? And is she at least cute? Or am I getting shot by a butt ugly broad? Not that it makes a difference as far as bone/lead friction calculated within velocity/distance matters divided into the effective penetration factor plus Murphy’s Law.

All the questions that a million other people throughout history have wondered when facing a death they had not foreseen, could not possibly have predicted would happen to them when they woke up that morning kissed their wife, husband, inflatable doll, goodbye got on the subway, or train, or car, and commuted to the Financial District only to find AA Flight number 11  about to smash right through their coffee machine, must have asked themselves (even though they had just seen the exact same thing happen across the plaza from them 20 minutes before) and that not one single one of them ever got to find out. So why should I get mine?

One thing is true though about staring death in the face. I don’t know about any shining light and open arms. I remember Benicio Del Toro on Actors’ Studio, what he would like God to tell him at the Pearly Gates: “Here’s the key, come and go as you please.” But I won’t be that lucky, even Lucifer hadn’t been, it’s a one way street as far as I’m concerned so I can’t tell you about a shiny light, or a bright smile or wide arms, or big giant boobs, but I can tell you this.

Right before you die Time extends towards infinity. Take this endless narrative, my useless anecdotes, bad jokes, foul talk, and tutti cuanti, I only started winding my tale down at the very moment I turned around on the barrel with nicotine withdrawal. I don’t know if you’re entire life flashes through your head, that will be another fraction of a second into eons of time between Now and Then, but I know this much. Either I have been granted a full blown live experience of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity spoken in the immortal words of LL Cool J as: “put your hands on a burning stove a second will feel like an hour, make love to a beautiful woman and an hour will feel like a second”, with Michael Rappaport to concur.

Anyway…So it’s either that or my brains nervous terminals, connections and neurons are way ahead of me in the eternal order of priorities, realizing: “Yo! This is it yall! It’s our last shot! We better start fuckin’ like crazy ‘cuz this is it two seconds ‘til splatter!” and are functioning at such speed that it actually feels like time has stretched out to embrace me and grant me one more lifetime (even if it’s the exact same one, thank you very much Time) before taking mine away from me.

Not that it matters either way because it feels like Time has stretched and that’s ALL that matters right now, because I won’t get any answers, I won’t come and go as I please.

With Time working in slow mo’ I hope the pain won’t stretch out either but I guess that’s the flip side, all I can see is the light of ignition at the once black end of the barrel, and my dumb ass is thinking, Ben “I need acting school” Affleck dressed up as a pale imitation of the Dare Devil, a movie only worth it for the second and a half it takes Jennifer Garner to say: Elektra Nachios (multiplied by the number of times you rewind and replay it), looking down at this guy he just threw onto the MTA tracks and yelling at him: “You see that light at the end of the tunnel? Guess What! It ain’t Heaven! IT’S THE C TRAIN!”

3,2,1…

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Bible Belt, The Judas Tree (A Christmas Carol)

Image

Outta the country and into more country
Past Dyesburg into Ripley
Where the ghost of childhood haunts me

Arrested Development

What’s goin on Tennessee? And welcome back to 101.1 FM J.C Radio, your direct connection to the One and Only, The Man Above, the Man in Black! Now wasn’t he on the path?! That’s right yall, Johnny Cash! You’re in the Ring of Fire! I’m your host Joseph Arimathea! Stay tuned we’ll be taking questions next.”

Now that was weird, Jack thought. In a growing day of increasingly strange occurrences Jack had not expected to find this one the hardest to believe, not by far…

Well you know how it goes with relatives; they’re family just as long as they stay OUT of your life. Very out thank you very much, as out possibly as that cliff on the far side of the world where here there be dragons, or accessorily your great aunt Jill, who hasn’t spit fire since you were born but definitely contains enough charcoal in her eyeballs to melt your nuts with her endless renditions of self righteous, good God fearing Christian rants on sinz and sinnaz.

Just because the old dragon can’t spit flames out her nostrils, and she probably could if she took the care to pluck them, doesn’t mean she ain’t a dangerous, mean, ol’bitch to be around on her better days. Who would have ever thought that “I’ll wash your blasphemous mouth out with soap!” was a thing to be taken literally anyway?

Yup, relatives, family. Your “extended” family. Most people have a hard enough time getting on with their ol’folks, and they’re the ones who fucked you into life, birthed you, burped you, bathed you, beat you into school, bailed you out of jail, and generally kept you fed, fat and fucked up. Who the hell wants to deal with more than that?! So you have a hard enough time dealing with your ‘rents, whom you owe some measure of respect for at least some of the aforementioned if you were lucky, but then you gotta listen to some dumb ol’farts who been feedin you baby noises and nasty food every time you were unlucky enough to visit them, gave you some shitty toys for Christmas when you could have been cozy in the city watching the Sesame Street Christmas Special instead of being stuck somewhere between Richmond and Tulsa singing your 600th psalm and you were only six, and had already figured out in spite of many claims to the contrary that No Christmas was Not about Jesus, Yes it Is about toys, cake and candy, and that somewhere on the map there definitely be dragons, and if not your great aunt Jill, whose progeny was stuck somewhere in the gray areas between inbreeding and plain stupid.

Now maybe if they could spit fire, fly, inspire terror in the hearts of the wicked or any combination of the three, there would be some reason to visit them, but lacking that why the fuck come all the way out there, when they could just as easily (and much more comfortably) make it up here, where big giant lights and Christmas Carols were all you needed to feel festive and loving. Just because I sing the damn song doesn’t mean I actually want to be roasting chestnuts on an open fire, unless its propane based, on my balcony overlooking the Park with the TV on loud enough to NOT miss the Christmas special.

One should seriously give some thought to the meaning of the “extended” in family. If it was Family, it would just be “plain” family. Feel the need to qualify? Gee I wonder why? Given that they have semi parental rights over you, that you must watch your mouth and be-have for them as if they had ever done a damn thing for you. You’re the guest, doesn’t that count for something? You’re the one getting the disbelieving stares from your country cousin’s country friends and the horny winks from their bare footed girl friends so why did you have to shut up for them on top of things?! It’s not “extended” for no reason, you have to “grant” an extension it doesn’t come automatically, and it can just as easily be withdrawn. But: “Jack how dare you?! Apologize immediately to your aunt Jill!” That’s Great Aunt Jill Ma, and we all know you hate the bitch.

Relatives, if only they could stay as far as they could thank you very much…

Far that is, as far as their Will is concerned. You gotta be smart about these kind of things now, and just because Great Aunt Jill was an evil, mean, wicked, slightly senile and definitely buried in wrinkles and folds each of which containing it’s own ecosystem and gravity well, and just because the nasty pain in the ass grumpy ol’ smelly fart was all of them and worse while she was alive doesn’t mean you shouldn’t honor her last wishes. And if she really wanted to give you something you should definitely indulge her last request, because it says so on her tombstone: Here Lays Jill Abernathy, a Kind Mother to her a Children a Loved and Dearly Missed Member of the Community.

Ah Great Aunt Jill, most things find their value in Death, and you were no exception. God Bless you as you roast on the Devil’s Barbeque because that tombstone is BULLSHIT AUNT JILL! BULLSHIT!

Yet the final wishes of the dead, now that, and your bank account, was sacred, and sacred these days meant driving from New York to Memphis in the depth of winter to honor Great Aunt Jill, her long over due departure and your slightly on the rupt side bank account.

“Question number 1, from my good man John from Bethlehem! You’re on the air sir, what can I do you for?”

“Well Hi Joseph, I had um, I had me a question.”

“That’s what we’re here for John!”

“Well my question is this: How many people must I kill to ensure my place by the throne?”

“Well John my man, that’s a question only you yourself can answer. What does your heart tell you?”

“That I got more work to do Joseph!”

“That’s spoken like a true Faithful! Now get out there John and get to business!”

“Question number II from…”

The letter had come from TN in the morning. Usually Jack would have sent anything from Dixie straight to the trash as most of them were either pamphlets from the now deceased Jill and/or letters from his cousins inviting him to yet another Elvis impersonation contest, each and every one of them swearing that: “It’s laike he’s come alaive ag-ieun!” and so on so forth. But this one had the added value of coming from a Lawyer; hard working fellows, slightly on the horny brimstone side of the good and evil divide if one was to be believed, but since he hadn’t set foot in Tennessee in ten years it couldn’t be bad news or some pending litigation. It had to mean that Praise the Lord someone had finally died down there, or that Hallelujah someone had finally died down there leaving him a bundle of cash, property, or something so old and banged up he should be able to get a buck out of at an antiques store, or from some crazy ol’ Elvis paraphernalia collector.

The trick question was: who? There were a bunch of people he hated down there, he thought as he cut through the envelope, but which one it was would influence the likelihood of the mortuary cash prize so he shouldn’t let his wishes go to waste, Jack had to send all his mental energy towards the right corpse…

Crossing the state border into North Carolina Jack was too busy thinking over the little tell tale signs that would have indicated, possibly, that the late and long overdue Great Aunt Jill, had, maybe, large quantities of cash, or hopefully, other valuable property that she might want to bestow upon him in her obviously deteriorating sanity, to notice the sign welcoming him into Michael Jordan’s alma mater state reading THORN ANCORLINA. Nor did he notice how the night seemed to freeze in twilight, and the moon suddenly went from its first crescent to a full blood moon. Nope Jack’s mind was too busy counting the pennies he had once seen in Aunt Jill’s safety pot to notice those.

The human mind is trained to read words as a whole anyway, so even if he had noticed the sign he would probably have read it correctly only turning back realizing what he had seen much later on, but what he should have paid attention too and didn’t, distracted as he was by the ever changing rapport between penny mass and jar size that will undoubtedly affect the porcelain pig industry for a few more centuries was the picture by the state slogan: a small tree, a small, leafless tree, a small leafless tree with someone hanging from its branches.

“…from a sweet sounding young dame named Maria Magdalena from nearby Nazareth. How do you do there sweet Maria?”

“Mighty fine thank you Joseph. It’s always a pleasure to hear you on the waves.”

“And it’s a pleasure to have you for the first time Maria, but I expect you get that a lot.”

“Oh Joseph…”

“What can I take off your chest young lady?”

“Well Joseph, I have committed adultery with all of my husband’s friends, but I’m unsure if I should get into a threesome with his brother and sister.”

“Hey you know what I say: it’s best kept in the family. Just incidentally we are airing from Gallilea only a ten minute drive from Nazareth at this time of day.”

“Well, I was on the way to get my son from kindergarten, but I guess I could stop by and fuck you for a bit.”

“OOH Wee! That’s how we do it at 101.1 J.C Radio, I’m ready when you are baby! A new question coming right up…”

For Jack life had taken an unexpected turn around Christmas Eve of 1996, and it had all started with a toast to the re-election of a certain William of Clinton gone wrong…

It was a cold night for his cousins, but for Jack it was once again too warm for comfort, too warm for Christmas really, not that he would know come to think about it having never been in the City for Christmas always leaving a few days early and returning a few days late. At least he had always made it back for New Year’s which was really the high point of the holiday season as far as he was concerned since he always got his presents anyway, although he never got to go to Chris Be Yung’s Christmas Pajama Party where little Liz Cohen went every year. Christmas stood for a few things for Jack, the three duly reflected upon earlier, and Liz Cohen in her jammies.

Now that was Christmas, or Hanukkah, whatever, it didn’t fuckin matter because if there ever was one present he had dreamed of unwrapping since he was seven, that was Little Liz Cohen, who turned out over the years into Not So Little Anymore Liz Cohen and progressively into Check Out The Knockers On Her Liz Cohen and finally into I’ll Beat The Shit Outta Samuel Levin Liz Cohen.

In the end Samuel Levin had beaten the shit out of him, but he had caught her eye which eventually led to Drop The Nicknames About My Girl Liz Cohen. But for all his persistent efforts and fantasizing it turns out that even Samuel Levin hadn’t unwrapped the present and that neither would he, or anybody, at least not by the time she left Rudolf Steiner School on the Upper East Side, leading to the public degrading of Rudolf Steiner’s with colorful items such as “Thanks for delivering Rudolf.” “Fuck off Rudolf.”, and the Christmas 1998 Year Book favorite: “Rudolf the Shit Nosed Fuckface.”

If only Jack had been blessed with telepathy (a strain that seems to run deep in the Tennessee Abernathys, as Jack would soon find out) he would have, with precognitive hindsight, decided that Liz Cohen and long lingered for Christmas Pajama Parties were not worth it anyway, and that really how many city kids were lucky enough to get out of town at any time of the year and get a warm Christmas and get back just on time for New Year’s? But Jack was not a be-grateful-for-what-you-get type of kid, more the fuck-you-I’ll-take-your-bike-if-I-wanna kind of cherub.

So things took a turn for the worse on New Year’s Eve 1996 over the re-election of President William of Clinton…

“Fuck him Jack you hear me?! Givin’ a bad name to all us Bible Belters!” yelled Tom Irving from the back of his truck where he was sitting next to Billy Joe Abernathy, Jack’s might-be-inbred-might-just-be-stupid cousin.

“That’s right Jack, yall Yankees can’t read ‘em like we do…”

You mean you can read? Jack thought suppressing a smile.

“…but this one is bound to pull the whole Nay-sheun into scandal. You mark my word! And this is an Abernathy speaking!”

The other members of Reverend Billy Joe Abernathy’s Back of the Pick Up Truck Ministry of Baptist Retards nodded vigorously at that. Apparently missing a chromosome or two made you worthy of respect around these parts. Jack shrugged.

“The People have spoken. Twice.” He took a sip of his beer. “Including about half of the Belt so really…”

“You mark my words Yankee. His own state shunned him boy. That’s his peoples, that’s his families,” more vigorous nods, “you northerners musta got an early winter and brain freeze, but we here we know…”

Brain freeze? Brain freeze?! You’re your uncle’s son and you’re telling me about…

Jack must have had just one beer too many that night, he should have realized this was a: backing up the wall against a rabid mutt, now is time for subtle I’ll use my superior brain power to flip this script on you since you’ve got it all backwards anyway moment, but instead he said:

“Yeah just like you know which cow to fuck from a mile in the dark huh Preacher?”

Maybe he did if it came to that but it wouldn’t make a difference to Jack, because one thing Billy Joe knew was how to pitch a fast ball with a Coors light, and as it turns out Jacks’ forehead would have made a high class Catcher if the rules had only been more alcoholic oriented than the regular game already was.

When Jack woke up the next day with a three inch scar along his scalp, he realized he couldn’t remember a thing about the night before, but for some reason he had been miraculously spared another Eve at the Abernathy’s and if he had to have a scar under his hair for the rest of his life, well it was a valuable tradeoff.

Jack accepted that they had somehow got in a fight with the kids from Little Street, especially with Great Aunt Jill, claiming that “these rascals will burn in the Pit someday.” Well they would have all the leisure to continue their feud with Billy Joe and his crew once they did depending on who got there first. Jack took this as his cue to get home faster, and cherry on the cake (sorry Lizzy) was that the incident didn’t sit too well with Jack’s mother formerly Jennifer Abernathy now Jennifer McGrady, deciding that this would be their last trip visiting these “little southern thugs.” For Jack, Christmas had taken on a whole new meaning, and he could swear the North Star was shinning all the way back, but he laid that on the concussion instead. That and the nightmares, the grinning faces of his semi retarded cousin and his friends, that kept him half awake all the way back to the Apple.

What Jack didn’t know was that that one single incident would send him on a journey he had not planned for and could no longer trace back to any specific moment. Ignorance is bliss…

“…from Tennessee’s very own Matthew from Jericho. Matthew my man you’re on J.C Radio.”

“Hi there Joseph thanks for hostin’ such a great show by the way.”

“You’re welcome Matthew, you’re welcome, I’m grateful for my listeners y’all a treasure trove let me tell you. So what troubles you Matthew?”

“Well see Joseph it’s like this. I run my own business here in Jericho. Things have been goin’ fine, real fine His Name be Praised, but I’ve been lyin’ about my achievements, you know, to hook the fish so to speak…”

“And there’s something wrong with that? Sounds to me you’re running a healthy business says me!”

“Oh ain’t nothing wrong with it. But I had some new customers, you know folks from outta state and I think they’re on to me, so I was thinking, maybe since you be talkin’ to all these people maybe you’d know…”

“Say no more Matthew, I’ll put you on to my good friend John who called just a few minutes ago. He’s looking for a few good deeds to fill his tab.”

“Why thank you Joseph!”

“Don’t mention it Matthew, don’t mention it! Alright! Time for a little musical break we’ll be movin’ to another tune from the Man in Black hey this one is for you Matthew, Matthew 24 (Is Knocking at the Door)…we’ll be back right after, stay tuned to 101.1 FM, JC Radio! That’s right!”

 

Of course as it turned out Reverend Abernathy had been absolutely right, William of Clinton got his home town renamed Little Cock, much to the pleasure of millions of Americans and at least a good billion internationals who just couldn’t seem to get enough of the whole Headgate Scandal. But Jack no longer knew that, and since he would never see his cousins again, Inch’allah as his Bangladeshi friend Mohammed would say (Followed of course by: an inch of Allah? What are you saying there Mohammed? That went on until Mohammed had his share and savagely but respectfully kicked Caleb Sorensson all over the court yard). But since he would never see his cousins again whichever God you pray too, he would never find out what had truly happened even when he found himself helping a hitch hiker along the road on the fringes of Welcome, Thorn Ancorlina…

It was still the late hours of the night, or the wee hours of the morning, but Jack had to make it by 12pm sharp if he was to get a shot at the cheese. And visibility was high under the full moon. Jack had a start at that, it should definitely not have been full, or at least wasn’t when he had been approaching the state border, but what the Hell? Who cared? Just a s long as he had enough light to drive by and gas to make it until the morning he would be just fine.

It was a beautiful moon though, orangey red like he had rarely seen outside the movies a Blood Moon if he remembered correctly, half expecting to see Harry Potter riding a Centaur coming out of the woods. Wrong continent Jack, he thought.

Instead as the fabled deer in the flashlight, an extremely overweight and ugly man appeared a few feet ahead of his Camaro, turning Jack into a momentary Michael Schumacher.

“ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR COUNTRY ASS MIND…” he started at the fat man before realizing that he was dressed as a Pastor. A pastor who apparently hadn’t heard a word he was saying, or had, it was hard to tell because:

“Curse you son, curse you! I’ve been waiting here all night for someone to make it and we’re not ten miles from Welcome! But what do you know? Nada, and on Christmas Eve too, well I guess the folks would be busy what with the ceremony and all, huntin’ virgins and the like! What be your name son?”

Jack was a bit too shaken to answer just yet. For one he still wanted to strangle the tub of lard preacher may he be, and two what the fuck was he talking about? Huntin virgins? And he thought that was all in the Catholic church, what do you know…But the pastor just went on.

“Tongue tied are we boy? Well I can’t blame you none, you look exhausted and let’s face it I’m not the prettiest sight in the world…”

Got that right.

“…but it sure must be a special night to send a Samaritan my way. Wouldn’t you say Mr….?

“Mcgrady, Jack answered Jack Mcgrady.”

“You got New York on your voice young Jack Mcgrady! I hear them city folk be an awful lot, unmerciful and sssi-eunnnin’ just as we like ‘em! Care to give an ol’man a lift?”

Not that old. Certainly too fat to walk anywhere or worry about a car crashing into you at 110mph at that.

“Well I’m in a bit of hurry Reverend, so I won’t be making any detours, but I’ll be glad to drop you along my way if it helps.”

“Spoken like a true city boy if I’ve ever heard one. You are Hell sent young Jack Abernathy, Hell sent!”

“Excuse me what was that?”

“What was what son?”

“What you just called me what was that?”

“Why Jack young sinner! Young Jack Mcgrady! What on Earth would I call you?”

“Oh beg your pardon preacher, I had heard something else.”

“Well ain’t it just the night for it! My congregation is in Welcome. There’s no way around Welcome if you keep goin’ straight young Mcgrady. Come on get back in that Camaro of y’alls and let’s roll into the moonlight!”

Jack realized once they had been riding for a few minutes that he didn’t know the person sitting next to him’s name, he looked like a Pastor and had all the exuberant annoying gimmicks people called charisma, but for all he new the guy could be an axe murderer on the lose waiting for his Christmas Eve trophy. But if he thought for one second that he had a found a victim in Jack Mcgrady he was badly, badly mistaken, in fact if he knew exactly what he was up against he would never have gotten in the car in the first place. As if reading his mind, Pastor Fuckhead slapped him on the shoulder and said:

“Ha! ha! Don’t worry young heathen! I’m not gonna slice you up, feed your body to my ministry and drink your blood! Ha! Ha!”

Jack dusted his shoulder off.

“I hadn’t gotten that far.” He replied lighting a cigarette.

“Oh but I could see it in your look, not that you looked worried, anxious though ain’t that right?” the church man answered with a wink.

So Preacher man got skills huh?     

“Then what are you still doin’ in the car?”

The man roared his head back in laughter, and extended a hand out to Jack.

“Reverend Wilford, Jack, Reverend Wilford. What am I doin in the car? Let me tell you son, in my line of work, you get to see many a kind of folk. Many a kind son, not two alike on the outside, but once you’ve heard about a thousand you start knowin who you dealin’ with, especially around these parts.”

I bet you do.                                      

“So you got street smarts there Rev?”

“I got church smarts son. It pays off being everybody’s confident let me tell you. And you, you ain’t the type to go nuts. No Sir. Although you’d seize the opportunity for a little practice if it came your way. Ain’t that right?”

“You’re a willy old bastard Rev. Excuse my language, never been one for much formality, no offense padre.”

“None taken sonny, none taken.”

“But riddle me this: I got a loaded semi automatic under the dash board. A knife under each sleeve of my shirt, and believe it or not, a razor blade against the top of my mouth.”

Jack flashed his hand before his mouth holding the blade out and just as smoothly made it disappear again.

“Now knowing many a type as you do. Which one would I use on you? If I were in the mood for a little exercise?”

“Good question there young sinner. Good question. Now I knew about the knives I caught the outline when you opened the door to your car. The gun under the dashboard I had guessed by now, but that blade trick? I like that. Folks out here get kinda crude with this sort of thing. But to answer your question, you ain’t gonna use neither. And why? Cuz you never had a chance at a conversation like this, and you’ve been dyin for one. Haven’t you son?”

Jack barked a laugh. The fat son of a bitch was right. Ten, well eleven years really, but only ten Christmas’s, if you counted and Jack was startin to feel…lonely. Not that he wanted to go around babbling about his business, but it would be nice to share a hobby with somebody every once in a while.

“Right on the dot rev, right on the dot, well if you care to hear my story, you might get more than you bargained for…”

“Ain’t nothing like a good gamble New York. Please treat me. I got the feelin I ain’t heard your kinda tale yet.”

Jack stared out the window as they passed a church bearing what he had thought was a cross from a distance, but turned to be what looked like a lynching.

He looked from the church to the Pastor, the man winked back at him. Jack shook his head.

Jesus, sure hate their niggers out here. Padre might get an earful but if that’s the kind of people he’s around…Well it’s back in the Belt for Christmas after all. Fuck…

Blood doesn’t wash away easily. Not in the metaphorical sense. When it came to that two tears in a bucket as far as Jack was concerned, but it was a whole other story when it came to his shirt, and pants…and shoes, but it was the little items that annoyed him, his Gucci tie for one, or his Kangol winter hat. You really shouldn’t kick a corpse after you had just killed it, that was just wrong, but eighty bucks down the arterial drain…it was all the struggling that did it, but where’s the fun otherwise? Although fun was not the right word. It wasn’t exactly entertainment for Jack Mcgrady, na, it was release, satisfaction, and the bullshit sounding, yet truly heart felt belief that he was doing both society, and whoever the fuck, a favor…

Most of the time it was only one, one and he would be able to get some sleep and enjoy the holiday season, but when the flashes would stab through his brain all day, making it impossible to concentrate on anything even as simple as making a cheese sandwich there had been more.

It is a tribute to Jack’s moral standing that in spite of the pain, and almost losing the ability to see on the worst days that he still kept his candidates within the target group he had selected to be relieved from their misery.

Jack was not a psychopath after all, he was a man on a mission, with a purpose that some may criticize, but so is euthanasia, and jack was all for euthanasia. Euthanasia, preemptive strikes, military coups, and generally any forceful intervention that would remove a son of a bitch before it was your ass he removed. Better him than me, especially him, and in this particular case them and although it wasn’t a clear case of him and me or them and me, it was nonetheless a burden someone had to take on. That it carried the added benefit of relieving the pain in his skull was not important. That’s what really sick people tell you: “I did it cuz I had too. You don’t understand. It was stronger than me.” Or in the worse scenarios “A dog was telling me to do it.” No that was for psychos. Yes it did hurt a little every now and then, but wasn’t it just better for everybody after Jack had gotten the job done? Plus most psychopaths and/or serial killers want to get caught, and jack was not one of those…

NY Times article,

December 24th 1997

John Dowd 3rd

The nightmare before Christmas

        Tim Burton couldn’t have cooked up a more twisted story line than this one. This morning the parents of Marsha Donovan, Queens, Maricela Arroyo, Manhattan, Justin Chu, Queens, and Bernardo Gucelli in the Bronx, are praying for a Christmas miracle, a real wink from God to right the underserved slaughter of their children. And most of us after reading this article, along with the NYPD officers and neighbors who have seen the corpses of the young down-syndromed children, will be praying for clumsy skeletons, headless horsemen, anything, anything rather than this. Truth is not only stranger than fiction it is also more horrifying and implacable.

        The bodies of three of the four children were recovered in the night by friends and neighbors, Bernardo Gucelli’s body was found by the local cleaning crew in the project building’s trash, their throats and faces lacerated.

        Both Marsha and Maricela, respectively 16 and 14 were in there teens, but Justin and Bernardo were both much younger, respectively 7 and 9.

        The bodies were recovered without trace of any sexual assault, but the police has concluded that this was the work of one man. All four victims were killed in the same manner: a quiet slash to the throat sometime on December 23rd between the hours of 4 and 9pm.

        The broad area covered by the killer, three Burroughs, makes him harder to apprehend, and leaves clues much more spread out, but besides the common manner of the killings, all four of the victims were showing various degrees of mental retardation.

        Justin Chu disappeared from the playground during a moment of his parents’ lapse of attention.

       Bernardo Gucelli was on his way back from school, only a few blocks away and never made it home.

       Similar stories follow Marsha and Maricela also both returning home after spending some time with friends on that chilly afternoon.

       This is the worse killing spree New York City has witnessed since Heriberto Seda, better known as the Zodiac Killer, was arrested in June of 2006. It has been a little over a year. Even Seda had not resorted to killing children.

        The police are certain they will apprehend the killer, but they also fear they are dealing with a copy-cat after Seda, possibly one using Christmas as his landmark,  although no letter was sent to NYPD claiming responsibility for the murders.

        It has been a sad year for our City, New York.

        New Yorkers wherever you are please share a thought tonight before you bless your food for Marsha, Maricela, Justin, and Bernardo. Light a candle, and tuck your children in tight.

Jack didn’t even look back at the fat sweaty man of god, he let go of the wheel long enough to light himself a cigarette, blew out the smoke and handed the pack to Reverend Wilford who gladly took it lit himself a smoke, and blew it out slowly, clearly enjoying the moment.

“And that was ten years ago?” he didn’t look shocked or concerned in the least possible way. Old man did really see his share huh? “We’ve got the makings of a legend here says me.”

“You don’t fuckin’ say.” Jack replied clearly not giving a shit either. If the old man proved trouble he would get an early Christmas, but Jack didn’t want to have to kill anybody he wasn’t…compelled too. But if the preacher proved trouble he’d have to do what he’d have to do. He didn’t think he would have to though. The man might be fat and annoyingly loud, but he seemed about as solid as Jack had ever met a man.

“The Moron Massacres!” Reverend Wilford roared as he threw his head back in riotous laughter. “The Crippled Killings!” “Oh my oh my I knew this was goan be good!”

Wilford caught Jack’s raised eyebrow in the rearview mirror.

“Just havin a laugh there young killer! Enjoy a few giggles with an old man on Christmas why don’t you?”

They were approaching Welcome, and Jack caught a glimpse of the board greeting him into the mud town: “Welcome to Welcome: “A fiendly place”

He burst out laughing.

Still can’t spell worth a shit.

“See youngin’ I knew you had it in you.” Wilford added slapping Jack on the shoulder.

“Keep your hands off me Preach’ we ain’t that cool yet.”

“Cold Yankee blood is what it is.”

“Call it what you will just keep your southern hospitality to yourself.”

“Hoowee! Will do young blood, will do Jack Mcgrady of New York. Ain’t there more you wanna share though?”

Jack peered in the rearview, and caught another sight of that lynching symbol on the board. Had he just not noticed them before? It had been a minute since he had cruised down the Ol’Belt, but stuff like this makes the papers nation wide no way around it. Racism just wasn’t in these days, not anymore, and Jack was no racist. No sir, been raised better than that. Most people were assholes, no matter what color they were, so who gave a shit? Black, white, brown or red, as long you weren’t a dickhead. Which Reverend Wilford from Welcome, North Carolina might yet prove to be.

And one shot, two shots, three shots, four, there goes Jack’s sanity out the door. Well not quite, it took a hell of a lot to send Jack Mcgrady over the ledge and barfing, but Reverend Wilford’s home made brew did make Jack feel welcome.

Welcome to Welcome what a bunch of morons.

“Rowdy yet young Jack? How ‘bout another swig at the ol’demon to uplift the soul! Amen!”

“You’re pretty cool rev, but I gotta get rollin’, you don’t want me around much longer anyway trust me.”

“Oh I trust none but one young Jack as you will soon find out uhhuh, you will soon find out…”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“That when the time comes we all turn to him, yes we do and so will you. Statistics you understand, or miss firing synapses they say, but who cares to listen to what they say anyway?! Ain’t that right pal’o mine?”

“Whatever Rev, keep looking for light in that moonshine, I’m takin’a hike.”

“Oh it ain’t the light that…”

Reverend Wilford was interrupted by the church door squeaking open in the middle of the night.

“Well I’ll be blessed! Little Lizie Cohen! You done come around of your Hebrew ways have you? Is you Born Again on this upcoming Christ Mass? Or you just come to polish that ol’knob of mine as usual?”

“Shut up Wilford.” She turned to Jack “Who the fuck you lookin at?”

Jack couldn’t move. He was transfixed. His eyes darted back and forth between her face and her bosom, quickly doing the math, adding the years up. Jack didn’t believe in coincidences, he believed in karma, what goes around comes around, spin the bottle and what not.

“Say Reverend, is your boy here stupid, or is he heated I interrupted you’re little gay get together?”

The voice was rougher, as if a decade or so of smoking had scrapped at the smooth staccato of her voice. Her frame was skinnier too, and her eyes held the hallow look of the fiend in need. A fiend in need is a fiend indeed, but so it is true of friends.

“Lizie? Lizie Cohen? Rudolf Steiner? New York City? Jack Mcgrady?”

He couldn’t have made a coherent sentence had he been sober. Liz Cohen, Pajama Party fantasy honey #1, and where? Why in the most likely place for a NYC Jew: three notches down the Belt.

Liz turned her blank stare at him. Jack might go down in History as the most cowardly serial killer in human memory, but at least he wouldn’t leave a skid mark in Liz Cohen’s. Or what was left of her. People go through different phases in life, become different people, and whoever she was, she was not Liz Cohen little Prom Queen in the making anymore she was…

“You gonna stare at me longer or you gonna put some money on my rock if I put my mouth on your cock?”

Jack could have thrown up. Reverend Wilford sat back in the confessional and pulled his pants down.

“Straight to the point, just how I like ‘em! Help yourself to the collection plate little Lizzie, or you can go to heaven!”

Jack watched his junior high fantasy follow the obese phony into the confessional, and drop on her knees, her now skinny, doped out butt sticking out of the door. Jack could see the track mark along her thighs. Rock, and cock were only two of Liz’s problems…

“Don’t just stare New York! She’s the hottest piece of meat this side of the Continental Divide! Climb on behind! She won’t mind! Won’t you now little Christ Killer?” he said patting her head.

Jack ran out of the church, tripping the Holy Water over, followed by Reverend Wilford’s voice.

“You done spilled God’s urine sample Mcgrady! Man is he goan’ be pissed!”

Jack threw up the pastor’s vile brew on the porch, he didn’t stop running until he was in car, and didn’t stop throwin’ up until he was on the road. When he turned around, Welcome was shrouded in a thick, black fog…

“…Matthew twenty-four is knocking at the door, and a day or one more could be the last.”

“Welcome back Sinners! 101.1 FM J.C Radio, and merry merry Christmas Eve! And Mary, Oh Mary. Hold your son to your bosom and hug him tight. We ‘re taking on question #4 my girl Rachida from Tyre! Anna how can old peckerwood as yours truly be of mindful assistance?”

“Merry Christmas Eve Joseph, and Curse you, curse you all to Hell!”

“Thank you Anna much curses to you and yours, but hold on a second there Anna. You are a virgin aren’t you Anna?”

“Why of course Joseph!”

“Well not for much longer Anna, not after you’ve heard this. Ladies and gentlemen, Maria Magdalena from Nazareth is among us but her top is not! Let me see those breasts a little closer Maria while I put Anna on hold, it ain’t over til its over yall, but its over when I’m done and lookin at Maria here it ain’t goan take long! Say Howdie to our audience Maria!”

“Howdie!”

“That’s right yall that’s right, howdie is about to get rowdie! Stay tuned for more merriness at 101.1 FM! Now get your ass over here Maria…”

Jack turned off the radio. It was about as much as he could take for two days. And where the fuck was he?

Tennessee, Tennessee.  Arrested Development must be the dumbest brothers in history…

Jack had never been so happy to cross the Southern Apalaches. There were no famous songs about North Carolina that he could remember, and good reason for that too. That any man should be happy to drive into Tennessee and still have to cross the entire state was enough for him to double back and go, but greed was a bitch. Especially when you’re broke, and when at any given time, no matter how careful you’d been, someone could come knockin at your door on to search your appartment. And that was about the time Jack planned to move into the house he had been building in the Pampas. Argentina harbored Nazis for cryin’ out loud…

But for that cash was of the essence and Wall Street had been an evil step mom to yours truly of late. He should have left earlier, to Mexico or something, someplace the police was nice and shitty, or Papua New Guinea where they were already so busy killing each other he would go virtually unnoticed, if they didn’t kill him first. Fair game really as with all things in Love and War or whatever, the point was that when the going got tough, whenever that was, Jack would get going. But first things first: crisp, straight out the bank, unmarked, Washingtons, Lincolns, Hamiltons and Jacksons.

“…Now get your ass over here Maria.”

“WHAT THE FUCK!”

Jack punched into the radio until the machine, his dashboard; fist and silk linen were bloody. The letter hadn’t mentioned anything about pristine clothing on this more fucked up than usual Christmas Eve.

Route 40 stretched on for what felt like days to Jack. Despite his efforts, his new age mantra and mind training exercises from back when he had thought they would make a difference to his yearly migraines, jack couldn’t remove the image of pure sweet virginal Elizabeth blowing that fat slob of a preacher.

Route 40 stretched on for what felt like days, and the only company he could find despite switching the buttons, changing the frequency and turning it off when he could do no better, was Joseph Arimathea and his depraved faithfuls. Sluts was the proper term but it seemed to be a popular trend. Who was he to judge? Hell he had slaughtered quite a few of the innocent himself in his day, and would slaughter a few more before his time was done. Maybe he wouldn’t actually, once the damn headaches stopped beating him, the world and his sanity, to shit right around the time everyone else seemed to have not a care in the world…

Actually come to think of it, his head was surprisingly clear, Crackhead Cohen aside. Usually by this early in the day on Christmas Eve he should be popping ibuprofen by the dozen, if not cleaning left over stains from his tux before heading to his parent’s house for dinner. By now he should be stark raving mad, half blind unable to focus on anything except not crashing his Camaro into one of his potential victims (he had tried once, it didn’t help, only managed to get him locked up and his finger prints and DNA checked across every precinct in the city. Good thing it had been December 22nd, he still had time enough to get his job done then, plus the cops wouldn’t suspect him once he had checked out. Who is stupid enough to go out and kill someone after almost getting caught? Besides the lucky killer that gets away of course…). By now Jack should have his fist firmly planted into someone’s face, or his hand slicing into someone’s throat rather than obsessing over Liz Cohen again less than an hour from Memphis TN at 10:30 am. He had plenty of time. Plenty of time to make it, cop that cash, let the headache surge and soar, and relieve the world and a poor soul from its misery. His or her misery and his own mind blinding, skull numbing pain…

The closer he got to Memphis the more churches he saw. The more churches and the more little lynchings. It had to be a lynching. What else could it be? Especially around these parts. The parts where they don’t take kindly of your kind ‘round here. What else could a skinny man hanging from a tree be? What the fuck would it be doing on a church? And why are all these deep fried southern brothers and sisters doing walking into the churches anyway? Does it take a burning cross these days? If the reverend pulled out a white conical mask would they figure its about time to pack shit and run? Or would Jack have to relieve them of a few of the more unfortunate among their congregation for them to finally get a hint? Everybody would win that way though. New York would deal with a new exodus, white people would have to flee even further north, but that’s just what Canada was for anyway, they’d have all the space they need…

Cuz I’m ridin in Memphis! Ridin in Memphis! Ridin with my fist all fucked up not feelin’! Ridin in Memphis…

Jack pulled up at Abe and Irv’s legal office at 11:27 am. Parked his car whistling Marc Cohn’s song, feeling surprisingly light on his feet, his body surprisingly strong in spite of having driven for almost two days straight with only the occasional bathroom break and having drank and puked Wilford’s liquor. He pushed the door.

“Welcome to Abe and Irv’s Legal Study! How may I help you?”

The hostess smiled hungrily at Jack to the point where he felt his balls start to swell. Her honey colored blond curly hair could have belonged on any of the Ingals daughters, and her boobs on any Pam or Anna. He didn’t answer immediately fixated as he was on her cleavage.

“You must be Jack Mcgrady.” She went on smiling.

“Huh..Yeah, yeah, absolutely that’ll be me, the guy staring at your breasts.” He said with his most winning smile.

“Well they need a lot more than just staring at Mr. Mcgrady, but I’m on business hours. Proceed to the end of the hallway. You’re expected. And not a moment too late.”

“Wouldn’t want me to be late!” jack replied energized.

The secretary stopped smiling. The expression on her face all seriousness, and her eyes suddenly sharp and penetrating.

“No.” she said “No. We wouldn’t”

Jack took at his cue and started down the hall.

When Jack finally walked up to the door he paused, turned around and looked back down the hallway at the hostess. She was looking at her nails, filling them, completely un-preoccupied, not seeming to notice he was still there or that she even cared, yet…

He shook his head. He had been imaging things. Obviuosly why would her hungry stare turn from eager to famished for no apparent reason? Why would she all of a sudden look at Jack less like he was a man as much as he was meat. Women have a way of doing that, maing a man think twice about tryin to bang ‘em. That weighing look that says: “You sure you can handle this kiddo?” In the end its always worth a shot anyway and…

… Tripping, yeah tripping is what he was doing, and what would be more natural after all the little quirks of the past couple of days? Weird shit had happened, small wonder now that he was flowin down the artery into the heartland of AmeriKKKa’s ass. He turned to face the heavy wooden door, decorated with a gold plated plaque that read the same names as on the building and the letter he had received a century of hours before: “Abe & Irv” in bold gothic letters. Damn lawyers, was the display supposed to be awe inspiring? Their business couldn’t be that bad with the country bumpkins they dealt with this deep. But that was just lawyers for you, reminding you at every turn that they were in charge; that your life depended on their good will, and your pay check and its own limitations.

No one answered the door when he knocked. He turned back down the hallway but Honey Dew was still all filling, business hours or not. After no one answered the second knock he turned his wrist to look at his watch. Small specks of blood still obscured part of the screen. He spit on it, and wiped it clean on his shirt. The numbers read: 11:58:39. He pushed the door open and walked into the office.

A chair was pulled in front of the desk for him to sit on, but his host’s own chair was turned from him, looking out the window like Dr Claw, Jack could have sworn he heard a cat purring, unless it was the secretary out there…

“So, which one are you?” he started. “Cain or Abel? Elvis or Costello?”

The church across the street from the building started ringing noon, and the chair spun slowly around counter clockwise…

When he finally caught a glimpse of the man facing him, one thousand needles dug into Jack’s cerebral cortex, popping out tiny heads opening into spinning blades. He grabbed his skull in both hands unable to comprehend anything, unable to hear clearly anything except the echoing bells of the church over the flatline like ultrasound that precedes aneurisms. But Jack was not having a stroke, far from it…

“Well well well, it looks like the prodigal son done come home after all. What you been up to Jack? Too high and mighty to come down and visit your old cousin Billy?”

Jack tried to look up, but as he did the spinning blades shredding whatever was left of his brain to strawberry milkshake turned warm. Turned warm then hot, and from hot to burning, turning the milkshake into Bolognese sauce.

“Damn, you look like you’re in a tight spot there cousin. It must be Him, it must be, after all these years ignoring your families. All these years without a holler. Yu didn’t think he would overlook you coming down here with nothing but money on your mind didjya?

When Jack finally found the strength to lift his head against the quicksand and through the lava all he could see were dancing grinning faces of Billy Joe Abernathy, ten years in the future, his slightly retarded features distorted by the hallow of pain. He tried to lunge forward and grab him by the neck, but only managed to fall pathetically off his chair, rolling himself into a ball on the floor certain his ears and eyeballs were oozing blood and pus.

“Wow Jack! I’m flattered, yes I am! You can’t be that happy to see me are you? After all these years the love is so thick I could slice it right through the throat.”

Jack wanted to unclench his teeth to say something, to say anything, but keeping his mouth shut was the only thing that kept the pain from stopping his heart, and somewhere in the back of what was left of his mind he knew it was also the only thing that kept him from biting his tongue off. Billy Joe walked around the table, and laid a hand on jack’s shoulder. The pain faded. Gone. All that was left was the physical exhaustion, the relief that left him panting unable to solidify his muscles back into flesh from jello.

“See what the hand of an Abernathy can do Jack? Say hallelujah! Say Amen and praise below!”

Billy Joe walked back around the desk to his chair as jack lifted himself painfully onto his chair.

“Now look here Jackie boy.” His cousin went on as if blind to his kin’s misery. “I know you came for the prize. Heaven! You hated my mother ‘bout as much as everybody else ‘round here, didn’t you?”

Jack tried to speak.

“Exactly, Billy Joe went on, well good news is, there is a prize waiting for you. Why Mama Jill picked you out of all the spawn of this bloodline beats the crap outta me, but she had one condition, one last one, she said the prize was yours if you could make it before twelve, that the prize was yours if you could make it to Midnight Mass tonight.” He leaned over, and yanked Jack’s chain and cross from under his shirt. “You might wanna be wearing this cousin, you don’t wanna get the wronmg kind of attention. Now scoot I’ll see you at the church on Little Street where we used to kick it back in the day.  Irv’ll be there too, remember Thomas?” billy Joe’s grin turned fiendish. “I’m sure he’ll be glad to see you.” He stared at him straight. “We all will.”

Jack crept out of the office without pausing to shut the door. He walked by the secretary who didn’t spare him a glance, but once he was on the street, all eyes seemed to turn to him and follow him when he wasn’t looking, maybe he was really dripping blood….

By the timwe he reached the Doubletree Hotel, only a few minutes ride from Abe and Irv’s Jack was too numb to reach into his trunk and pull out the little he had taken along with him in case of anything. A towel, tooth brush, a couple of pairs of undies cuz you just never know, and a fresh white shirt in case on of his moods took him and he had to trade clothing for something less crimson…

He barely found the strength to push the revolving door open and let himself slump against the counter.

“Hi, I’d like a room the name is Sa…”

“No worries Mr McGrady, Billy Joe Abernathy just called, said you should be rolling in any minute.”

“How…”

“The heaven if I know. He just called said you looked a bit under the weather when you left his office, figured you wouldn’t make it any further than here no way no how.”

Jack couldn’t find the strength to argue, all he could think off was a shower if he didn’t pass out on the floor first thing after he walked into whatever room was his. His head didn’t hurt anymore, but it felt like his brain was shivering inside his skull.

“Keys?” he said opening his palm.

“Sure thing, you’re on the sixth floor, room 66 like the route. Like AC/DC Mr Mcgrady?”

“I’m a Guns n’Roses man huh”, he looked at the name tag “Stanislas.”

“Well it won’t make a difference to the room let me tell you.” He replied.

His eyes locked on the small cross dangling around Jack’s neck. It was an old piece of shit, worth less than the metal it had been carved in, and the only reason he wore it was cuz his mother had been so damn insistent on him trying, just trying, to show a little faith and good will around Christmas…The man’s eyes went hollow.

“Nice cross.” He said.

“You want it?”

“Not for my soul no.”

“Thought so.”

Jack snatched the keys out of Stan’s hands and made his way to the elevator.

He woke up in pitch dark, his head jolting up at the sound of the church bells ringing eleven. He looked at the alarm clock to check the time. 10:59. He shook his head trying to gather his senses as he walked to the shower to freshen up before acting the last and final scene of this masquerade, banking up, and riding the fuck up North, and never, never ever, setting foot anywhere south of D.C ever again. He could recall the events of the afternoon, his cousin’s words, the pain itself was a distant memory by now, but strangely enough so was his cousin’s face. He could recall everything else, but Billy J’s face was blurry, and the harder he tried to remember, the hazier it got, until Jack gave up on the ugly son of a bitch, washed up and left the hotel room.

Stanislas was nowhere to be found, and the lobby was empty, so were the streets, and the lights in every building were out, but Jack was too busy again focusing on the financial outcome of this road trip gone bonkers to look or care. He turned on the ignition, put pedal to the metal and headed for the oldsmall church on little street.

Little Street was as empty as the rest of the town. Empty and dark, just like jack liked a street around this time of year. He pulled over by the old white building, the paint flaking off its wooden panels. He pushed the door open, paying no mind to the tree that must have been there his entire life and that he had been too stupid to pay any mind to as a kid. The door opened up onto more darkness, and Jack stepped in…

The room lit up with a thousand candles as his right foot passed the porch, and the door slammed behind him. Benches stretched ahead and behind him as far as the eye could see. It looked as if the entire town was there, except Memphis couldn´t possibly have that many people. Loud merriness filling the air with carols, chatting, laughter and crying babies. Somewhere to Jack’s left a woman sneezed. A few feet behind him someone farted, followed by a couple of giggling boys right next to him turning around o see the perpetrator. Jack was about to join in when a strong grip stuck to his hand and spun him around.

“Well I’ll de blessed! Billy wasn’t lyin’ when he said you done come round jack! Let me see that head of yours. Wow that’s still a nasty scar! Been carryin Memphis all around with you huh? A big ol sign sayin “Stay the Fuck out” haha! Come this way Mcgrady you’re the guest of honor.”

Jack would have wanted to pull back, but Thomas Irving had a good 250 pounds around his 6’5 frame. Jack was a big guy, but Irv had been a linebacker since a boy and even if he had tried the other man wouldn’t even have felt the tug.

“Where’s Billy?” he asked looking around at the riotous crowd around him all chaos and anarchy waiting for the moment the Pastor stepped on stage.

“Your cousin? Oh he remembers all too well how you reacted to him earlier on, he don’t wanna spoil your fun jack. That’s family for you, ain’t that something?”

Sure is. Jack thought The brain and the brawn.

Was that how Abe and Irv ran their business? One of them bullying the Jury while the other sweet talked them into clearing the incestuous pedophile? He was shoved onto a bench before he had time to find out.

“Just in time Jack. Reverend Jo’ll be here any minute now.”

Jack turned his eyes to the altar up on a stage, a leg appeared from behind a curtain and the church went silent.

The face meant nothing to Jack as he turned around to scan the ecstatic faces of the audience. He saw a woman at the far end of his bench fondling her breasts with her right hand, her left disappearing conspicuously under her neighbor’s dress, Jack wanted to stare a while longer but the man on stage, dressed in all black like the homies started speaking. The face meant nothing to Jack but he would recognize that voice among millions.

“WEEEEEELLLCCOOOOOOOOOMMMEEEEE FAithfuls! Yeah!”

Joseph Arimathea spun on himself landing one knee on stage. The audience went berserk, jumping up and down screaming at the top of their lungs, even Tom was up dragging jack by the shoulder to join the pandemonium.

“OOweee do we got a hot audience tonight! Are you hot, or are you not my lambs?!”

“We’re hot Joseph!” screamed a man from so far back down the never ending rows of benches that his voice should have never carried so far.

“Positively dripping Joseph!”  the woman with the hand under her skirt yelled.

“I bet you are Anna! What’d I tell you, oh Maria oh Maria!”

“I’m so wet I could melt Joseph!” Anna went on oblivious to the rest of the congregation her eyes fixated on the short squat man on stage, her hand rubbing ever more furiously against her crotch.

“Wow wow e’Zeeeeeeee there Anna, save a little something for later, I can see a whole lot a folks who want a piece, ain’t that right yall?!”

“You damn right Joseph!” someone hollered.

“I’ll be damned if I damn! HAHA!”

The joke was lost on jack, but the rest of the church roared in laughter. Joseph Arimathea started jumping up and down the stage pointing at random people.

“Damn you! Damn you! And damn you!, and you…DAMN! Are you ugly! You must be blessed!”

The crowd only roared louder.

“I got a little song for you tonight, a little something for Memphis, on this eve of merriness say Amen!”

“Amen!”

“Say Praise below!”

“Praise below!”

“And now chill!”

The crowd went still.

“HAHA! That’s right my lambs, that’s right my sheep! Get on wit it! Wooo!”

The curtain dropped revealing a band complete with horns, bass, drums and an organ.

Joseph Arimathea tore his shirt open, revealing a sunken pock marked chest. The bass player started thundering on his strings driving the electric audience into a mad frenzy.

“Everybody raise your cups for my man on the bass, Bernardo Gucelli!

The fever rose a pitch, hands started clapping far in the back rolling past Jack all the way to the stage, when the first row start clapping Joseph let himself fall back, started convulsing and jumped back on his feet.

A woman near Jack fainted.

¨Bring on the drums!”

The drummer bet his sticks to catch up with the bass.

¨Yeah you go Justin!¨

Tom Irving threw his hat in the air.

¨Yeah you beat ‘em Justin! That’s right! Beat ‘em! It’s a sooooouuuulllll stew!¨

Jack felt his own feet stomp the floor unable to control them. He didn’t want to join the audience, there was something wrong about this mindless devotion, this unbridled laissez allez, but Jack couldn’t help himself, he started shaking his hips. Joseph did a hand stand and back.

¨Are we havin´ a Memphis Soul Stew yall!¨

¨Hell yeah!¨

¨I can’t hear yall.! Say HELL!”

¨HELL!”

¨Say YEAH!”

¨YEAH!”

¨Say HELL YEAH!”

¨HELL YEAH!”

¨Now STOP!”

The band and the crowd froze in mid motion. Jack was stuck in mid funky chicken.

¨This ain´t no soul stew! ¨ Joseph scolded the crowd. ¨We can’t have a Memphis Soul Stew without some Memphis horns.¨ he crooned, sounding all the world like King Curtis. ¨Horn ‘em like they holy! HORNS! ¨

The saxophone came to life, adding a thick layer of groove to the mad rhythm. Jack was gone by then, there was no controlling his arms his legs, he jumped backwards up on the bench in a mad Tom Cruise mimic.

Anna on the far side was half naked tonguing her neighbor down, he thought he saw his cousin Billy, epileptic, but altogether he didn’t give a fuck, he grabbed the obese black woman next to him, licked her face and pushed her of the bench.

¨…serve ‘em!¨

Arimathea´s voice was the drone in the back, the background music that carried them all forward, faster.

¨Come yall this ain´t soup….¨

The organ sprinkled the rest of the band, growing in thickness, building up the intensity like The Doors used to. Jack threw his head back.

¨AAAMMMEEENNNNN¨

The crowd yelled back at him.

¨AAAAAMMMMEEENNNN!¨

¨….. this is STEW! Drown ‘em! Don’t choke on it! Don’t choke yall! Don’t choke! Yeah !¨

The instruments were funkin´, jazzin’ in that insane dis-coordinated way that only Jazz makes sense of in the end. Frank Mcgrady was a big jazz fan, always claimed to be the biggest, his mother not, she had never seen the same wonder that jack had found in the dissonant squeaks as a baby, nor had she shared the same worship of his father that he had…

¨Stomp the floor! Stomp the floor! Stomp the floor!¨

The wooden planks started cracking underneath their feet, a mix of paint and wooden flecks falling on the crowd from the ceiling like ash sticking to their sweaty hair. Jack wiped his face with his hand only to add more dust. A few people started coughing but up on stage Joseph and the band played and moved faster and faster, Jack wasn’t sure but he would have sworn the bass player’s finger bled.

¨…Get lean yall! We’re getting lean! Get lean now, get lean! And stop!¨

The bass player fell flat on the ground.

¨ Was that a Memphis Soul Stew?! His voice echoing through the silent mile long church.

¨YEAH!¨

Joseph shook his head.

¨Naw, naw that wasn’t no Soul Stew…¨

¨What do we need Joseph?¨

¨Yeah Joseph what do we need, somebody go fetch the missing ingredients!¨

Jack was looking around as anxious as everybody else to find whatever it was MC Joseph needed to get the recipe right. Starting with a new bass player. That a dead man was just laying there on stage on Christmas… cuz it must be passed twelve by now…Jack looked at his watch, he had shaken it too hard dancing, the arrows were spinning fast backwards counter clockwise….

¨We need a Soul.¨ Joseph dropped.

The rumor around the room faded, many shaking their heads disbelieving. A voice rose sounding all like Joseph Arimathea, Awesome Abbot of the Apocalypse, Burning Bush of the Boondocks had just shit right out his mouth.

¨There ain’t a soul among us Joseph.¨

¨Nonsense! I can smell a soul!¨

¨Maybe you got a soul Joseph!¨ The voice all sarcasm now.

¨Maybe I do!¨ He sneered at the people below him.  ¨What say you?¨

The audience backed away from where the voice was coming.

¨No!¨

¨No, no Joseph you’d have the last soul among us.¨

¨Burn you all!!¨ Joseph yelled at them “I could have any soul I want. And we got a special soul tonight. Not two like it in the free world! In the Axis of Good we eat Soul Food! Put your noses up and smell the sweet thorns!¨

Jack was still dizzy from the exhaustion, but he saw the people around him turning slowly towards him, he could sense all the eyes in the church shift towards him, he looked up and not quite met Joseph Arimathea’s eyes. They were shining, and looking straight at his cross. Jack looked gave a quick glance around. He couldn’t see it on everybody, but there was still a little forest of hangmen around him.

¨Jack Mcgrady!¨ he clamored over the crowd, ¨Jack Abernathy Mcgrady from New York City. Cuz it’s as Jack Abernathy that you come to us tonight. Are you even sure you’re a Mcgrady, Mcgrady?¨

Jack wasn’t so sure when it came to that, but that was none of Joe’s business.

¨Just cuz you know you came from two Arimathea’s don’t make us a team Joey.¨

Arimathea’s laugh was both self mocking and truly amused.

¨Oh he got you there Joseph!¨

¨I told you he had Soul! Come on up here Jack, its time to collect.” He said wringing his hands his eyes glued to Jack’s Crucifix.  It was well like Aunt Jill to put him through hell again, one last time for old time’s sake, the fuckin ghost of Christmas past and not a minute too late, as long as this little party wasn’t on his end of the money.

Jack let his head drop and breathed in deep.

¨Right there with you Joseph. Get your valet to start my car.¨

¨You’ll be on your way in no time Jack, come on up and bless this congregation on Christmas with yalls true!¨

It took Jack what felt like hours to reach the stage. A few seconds before he had thought himself only a few yards from the stage, twenty feet at best, but the further ahead he walked the further back the stage moved. By the time he stepped on the rotten planks the church had extended further than he could see, a small breeze blew through a crack in the walls and whistled through the alleys, the only sound to be heard for minutes. When it exited the church through some other crack somewhere all Jack could hear was his own heavy breathing.

Joseph Arimathea stood there grinning at him, his black sun glasses resting on his gleaming skull, eyes cold and serious.

¨So where do I sign DJ so I can get the hell on.¨

¨You gone get the hell on Jack Aby, you goan be gone, but we can’t work without the law on this side of damnation can we now_¨

¨You talk too much J but sometimes you make sense. Somebody fetch my cousin so we can call it day.¨

¨Billy Joe Abernathy_ Oh he’ll be with us shortly Jack, he’s answering to a higher summons right now.¨

¨A higher summons huh_¨ Jack said, his head half way down a slight smirk on his face.

¨Yeah! From Be ‘low!¨ Joseph bellowed.

¨Whatever, Joseph, look I appreciate the intent and all its been a hell of a Christmas, but I don’t wanna have to be here anymore than it takes to put pen to whatever paper you got ready, divvy up and split.¨

¨How little love you got Jack! How little appreciation! Show something for the one who remembers you from the grave.¨

¨That’s right!¨

¨Yeah! You tell him Joseph!¨

¨Cuz the grave forgives!¨

¨Amen!¨ screamed a skinny old lady on the front bench.

¨And the grave forgave!¨

¨Say glory!¨ she kept up.

¨¨But the grave can take back what it gave!¨

¨Yeah listen up Jack !¨

¨What you gonna give to the grave Jack?¨ Joseph asked, his voice all honey and slyness.

¨I’m gonna give it wave. A wave from the rear view Joseph. I let the grave to the grave Jo, whatever the fuck it gave.¨

¨So I hear Jack, so I hear.¨ Said Joseph, looking Jack straight in the eye for the first time. “Holier than thou or so would it seem say Amen but the truth of the Lord is in the cup Abernathy, Mcgrady who would be. The truth is in the cup would you care for a taste Jack? Would you indulge this audience before you bear the fruit from the grave?” Arimathea’s voice was all the milk and honey of both testaments. Jack looked into the chalice handed out to him. Deep ruby red. Deep ruby like a cherry jolly rancher, the kind that makes you bite at the last minute, the kind that makes you wanna bite. The candy that you keep eating when you’ve already had too much sugar, when you give into temptation because you wanna get a taste knowing the whole way that by morning all the candy would be gone. Jack was that kid again, Jack wanted candy. And why? Cuz who wouldn’t? Not you, not me, and certainly, certainly not Jack Mcgrady…

Jack put the chalice to his lips. The wine tasted thicker than any communal wine he ever had. As thick as blood. Thicker than water, and definitely, definitely, thicker than wine.

Jack had tasted a lot of blood. Never on purpose, never because he wanted to, but only because he couldn’t avoid the splatter. Murder was a messy business unfortunately, but in the end, ritual cannibalism was the ultimate symbol, the partaking in the blood of man, and jack had tasted the blood of woman and child alike, and he was nothing but a man. So he drank. Drank until the cup had made him dizzy. Drank until he…

…When he woke up, he was hangin from a skinny tree. Every head in the church bowed as far as he could see through his half open eyelids.

“Comfortable Jack? How do you like are accommodations?”

Jack was drowsy, his stomach cramped from the blood he couldn’t digest. He tried shaking his head to regain his senses, and turned his head as best he could towards the aeons of benches. As he moved the noose around his neck tightened, momentarily blocking the flow of oxygen to his brain. He couldn’t cough, choking, trying to struggle, but only makin his situation worse.

“What was that Jack?” Joseph asked, beaming concern and feigned interest.

Jack could have sworn his eyeballs were about to pop out and roll at the crowds feet. Their heads were bowed, but he knew that they were not missing a second of the show.

He was not getting any oxygen anymore. He knew it his chest felt about to burst, his lungs on the verge of collapse, but yet he still lived. He could still see and think clearly, but he couldn’t articulate anything.

“Oh how inconsiderate of me! You’re obviously not in a position to answer are you now Jack?”

The congregation’s silent worship turned into a deep humming, the basses carried and Jack could feel the small tree shaking, the vibrations tightening the already impossibly tight noose tighter.

“Now, in light of your past history and your, shall we say unfortunate circumstances Jack, a little clemency would be in order. But you’re a special case Mcgrady. It takes a really sick mind to turn a psychosis into a mission. Huh huh, a really really sick soul, wouldn’t you say Jack, if you could speak?”

The humming grew louder and more intense.

“What we offer you here Jack, is a chance at redemption, of sorts, a purge if I may.”

All the country antics, the flamboyant wise cracking was gone from his voice. Even his drawl was gone. Joseph Arimathea seemed to grow a few inches before Jack, his eyes meeting his. He moved his hands towards Jack’s neck and tore the crucifix off.

“Merry Christmas Jack! I would like to introduce you to someone. Cuz Chritmas wouldn’t be complete without Christ! He-sus! He-sus come forward….”

From the back of the church somewhere, suddenly clear to Jack’s eyes in spite of the distance, came a small wheel chair moving slowly up the alley, on it sat a little Mexican child, his head bowed down, slowly rising to look into jack’s eyes.

Jack’s brain went into instant overload, his body convulsing in an epileptic like frenzy that only added to the vise around his neck. Jesus, kept coming forward, his childish features so disfigured by down syndrome and inbreeding he hardly looked human at all.

The grating in Jack’s skull was at least as bad as the afternoon’s, so intense he feared he might get addicted to it, and maybe that was the point. He had never liked Hellraiser either one of the stupid series, but he remembered the transformation of the archeologist who had found the device that turned him into the cenobite Pinhead, Lord of Pain, an angel to some and a demon to others…tortured in the pits of hell to the point where pain became pleasure….

Jack wasn’t there yet, right then pain was just that, pain. Unqualifiable, unquantifiable pain. The look in Jesus’ doe eyes, radiating an innocence and purity that Jack wanted to extinguish, that Jack wanted to crush.

“Wassup Jack? Itching?” Joseph giggled.

Every eye in the church was now on jack, but the humming never stopped. The eyeballs turned inwards, only the whites showing floating over their gleaming trees. It wasn’t a lynching as jack had first thought.

“And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.”

Not a lynching at all, a suicide, a suicide for a deicide…Judas hanging from the tree…

“Realization Jack?”

He could hear Joseph’s voice but he couldn’t see him anymore, all the space in his mind in the gaps between the flares of torture occupied by Jesus’ eyes, by what might have passed for care, but Jack knew to be plain retardation.

“And He made man in his own image…”

Arimathea’s voice drifted towards him as Jesus seemed to concentrate on Jack’s face. He could feel his features stretching contracting in places.

The lights went out in the church, only the white eyeballs gleaming lighting up the trees around their necks. The darkness turned to glass, and the glass turned reflective…

Blood sprouted from Jack’s ears. The image of his face reflected into infinity by the mirrors around him. His face twisted into an image of Jesus’ own. Twisted, ugly, the image of all the faces he had caressed with his knife. The face of all the children and teenagers he had “relieved” of their misery. In a very remote way he knew he was still in the church, but he couldn’t see it. Al he could see was himself, and feel the buzzing from the humming crowd. Joseph Arimathea’s voice carried through the mist…

“Oh, Oh but here is the man we’ve all been waiting for.” Joseph said, over the growing tension that swirled around the never ending room. “Where you been Billy Joe?”

The mirrors disappeared, Jack looked up towards the back of the room, further than his eye could see, yet apparently much less further than the others could.

“I’ve been out and busy Joseph. “ William Joshua Abernathy’s monotone rippled throughout the room. “Busy and thoughtful.”

“I think its time for me to concede the stage.” Joseph Arimathea said without a hint of regret. “It’s time for Reverend Billy Joe to…”

“I’m not a reverend Joseph!” Jack’s cousin’s voice echoed within the walls.

“Then what are you William?” Joseph inquired.

“I’M A PREACHER, JOSEPH!” Billy yelled at him. “I SERMON; I PONTIFICATE!”

“Where da Pope at Billy?!” a voice clamored from somewhere.

“With your Mama!” Billy Joe Abernathy retorted.

“Na Billy, my mother be standing right by me Billy.”

Billy laughed.

“Then he’s with my mother!”

“And so were half of us!” The voice slurred back. “and so was her brother…”

Billy Joe, Jack’s long lost cousin suddenly appeared before the stage, and that was just the moment Jack chose to turn in his direction. He hadn’t though the agony could get any worse, but… The pain flared in his spine, growing towards his brain to the point that all his nervous terminals were on fire. The wine started bubbling back up towards his mouth.

“Wow how you feelin’ there cuz?!”

Jack let go a geyser of red out his mouth. He couldn’t move his body anymore, frozen in agony. His eyes were fixated on Billy Joe and his almost normal face, if not for that one trace that inevitably meant that…Suddenly, a can of Coors light was dangling between his hands.

“Ring a bell Jack?!”

His cousin’s voice sounded both near and far, both a whisper and a rant. Jack was so far gone within his own mind, trying to harness the onslaught, far stronger than anything he had ever experienced, that the weight of his kin’s unmistakable threat was lost on him.

“No?!” Billy’s voice rang mocking “NO?! Then hear the bells ring!”

The can flew from below him, and slammed right into his scar.

Jack woke up in a rush, just in time to see an obese man standing in the middle of the road. His car spun out of control. Jack didn’t have his seat belt fastened, he flew head first out through the window shield, directly towards a small tree on the other side of the ditch along the way. He saw the tree get closer, closer, and heard his neck snap as his head slammed into the trunk….

…His car spun out of control, but he managed to stop it just in time before he hit the man standing in the middle of the way.

“ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR COUNTRY ASS MIND…” he started at the fat man before déjà vu flashed through his mind. He looked up into the fat preacher’s grinning face…

“Curse you son, curse you! I’ve been waiting here all night for someone to make it and we’re not ten miles from Welcome! But what do you know? Nada, and on Christmas Eve too, well I guess the folks would be busy what with the ceremony and all, huntin’ virgins and the like! What be your name son?”

Oh no….

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Cemetary Gates

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“Reverend, Reverend, is this a conspiracy?”

Phil Anselmo

 

You’re never gonna believe the words you are about to read. If you even read ‘em that is. If you don’t throw this away like all the garbage it must look like cuz I probably would have if I were you, after you’ve rolled your eyes around a few times thinkin’ “Yep Mulder done fucked this guy up in the head. I’m gonna turn off the TV and put little Christopher (age 5) to bed” I know you would, cuz I would have, but I am not you. Not anymore.

This is for all you rational thinkers, all of you who’ve given magic the cold shoulder, turned your back on faith. All of you who hear a love story and go “bullcrapy”, all of you who’ve died many years ago, just walking through life like animated corpses, all the Beetlejuices of this world. All of you who have died when you stopped believing. Believing in Fairy Tales, believing that the Transformers had it right from the theme song, believing that Once upon a time shit wasn’t all fucked up.

All of you who’ve stopped dreaming, who wake up in the morning shake their heads goin’ “phew, now that was a load of bullshit; back to the real world.”

Roland, Last of the Eld and true Gunslinger said, “Some dreams are destiny.” You gotta dream first Jack.

Others will smile, slightly amused, and read this ‘til the end and go “yeah far out, its cool though.” If I’m lucky, or “I liked it, kinda like the 6th Sense, that trippy shit.” As if everything ever created has to be a knock off somethin’ else. Those who watch a romantic movie, really like it, but disregard it straight off the bat cuz “this ain’t never gonna happen in the Ghetto. Damn chicken heads. Broke ass niggaz. Crack head ass hoes. Pickle dick playaz.”

Then there are those who are gonna read this and sigh. Now you might think it’s only gonna be girls (I don’t mind ladies, au contraire, sigh all you want. Hell please sigh cuz nothing sounds sweeter to a man’s ear than an exhaled, barely whispered ohh or ahh), but it’s not. The guys out there too. You know who you are. Those of us who are gonna feel that tightening in our chests that congestion like you can’t breathe cuz you can’t.

Those who still believe. Those who still dream. Those who are gonna live happy, interesting, incredible, amazing, insane lives because the world is still a mystery and the wind still whispers to them.

I’m putting this down on paper for all three of you, no matter which type you are, because it doesn’t make a difference. Because which ever type you are, not one of you is gonna believe the words you are about to read. If you read them that is. Not one of you. And it’s a damn shame…

 

I grew up terrified of cemeteries…shook to death (haha). I mean scared shitless. I mean Scooby Doo-Shaggy scared. Scared into running in a circle right back into the monster’s arms. It’s a damn mask Shaggy. Every time. Every time for the past fifteen years. Wake the fuck up and smell the blue screen will you?!

As I was saying, I grew up scared of cemeteries, graveyards in general, tombstones too…dark places with crooked trees…moonlit nights with stringy corpse-finger looking clouds…owls and the like. Anything that has to do with Halloween come to think about it.

Talkin’ ‘bout Halloween, there’s nothing like a good old pagan tradition to mold you into somethin’ you were never meant to be. You really should send little Christopher (age 5) to bed. And forget Trick or Treatin’ while you’re at it. In fact, it’s best to leave the country altogether. Take a two week trip to Iran around mid October. That’ll scare little Christopher into eating all his vitamins, a much healthier kind of phobia.

So blame Halloween, blame Michael Jackson if you wanna (if anybody could tell me WHAT he sings in the hook after “It’s just a Thrillaaah!” it would really help). I’m not tryin’ to make excuses here, I’m just sayin’: I’m formatted. I’m American. What you gonna do? And you know why I’m not makin’ excuses? Cuz you’re formatted too honey. Maybe you’re French and it’s Ze Germans that keep you up at night. Maybe you’re Irish and its alcoholic Leprechauns that make you nervous, maybe you’re a Negro and it’s Whitey that scares you into running out on your teenage baby mama, but wherever you are there is some kind of irrational piece of make believe bullshit (well except for Ze Germans… and Whitey, they were pretty real) that keeps you up at night knowin’ full well it doesn’t exist. Shaggy anybody?

Now you might say I’m contradicting myself, with my less than eloquent, self indulgent criticism of the rational mind but the problem with these irrational fears is that when you finally grow out of them you shut down everything in the world out of the ordinary. That’s why 6 years old is called the Age Of Reason. As if it was something to be proud of. Your brain filters those fears into the junk mail portion of your psyche along with all the other little childhood traumas, Viagra commercials, messages from your unknown Korean pal Be Hung, and when the real thing happens you just refuse to believe it, (Just as I used to when I was like you. Just as this very story which any minute from now you’re gonna throw away to the garbage) and you stop dreaming. You stop dreaming and you become a healthy, dysfunctional, irreconcilably bound for “the couch”, adult.

 

This is where the story becomes interesting, for me at least. Interesting and slightly embarrassing cuz see, for me age 6 was not the age of reason. Not that I kept wetting my sheets Vicky Valencourt, but I did not stop being terrified of cemeteries one bit. Not even at all.

When my grandfather died I never made it to his funeral, I found a way to get arrested high on coke, speeding down the High 95.

When my mother passed away I spent a week in bed and visited her tomb only recently. I was fourteen. She shot herself. I’m 29. Do the math.

Maybe I was afraid of what was gonna happen, maybe I had seen through the orb at the not too distant future (you think we are today? In reality we are one week from last Thursday. Such is the stupidity of the Faketrix), and didn’t want to accept that what was gonna happen was true. But if I hadn’t finally found reason at 27, if I hadn’t finally gotten over my irrational fear, if my mother hadn’t shot herself in the mouth and I wasn’t too much of a pussy to go wish her farewell, then I would have no story to tell, I would still shit my pants at every RIP, but if Reason means what I meant it too, then I slipped into and right back out of it…

 

I finally grew up and it took something else than Reason. Cuz as stupid as this gonna sound, although I was baby scared of graveyards, and all Halloween related paraphernalia (which made me a terrible pothead by the way), I was never actually scared of ghosts.

When the Twin Towers fell we went down to Astor Place for my boy’s birthday (you know, Joe’s Pub. If you don’t, stop by on your way to the Village Idiot) and when I got out of the cabbie I felt assailed on all sides by the most intense spiritual energy I had ever felt, as if thousands of very little fists were punchin’ me into the right shape to make cookie dough. I got drunk silly and popped some E.

Freshman year, I woke up one morning with the feeling of somebody loomin’ over my left shoulder although my roommate was on the other side of the room by the sink. And when I tried to get up I was suddenly pinned to my bed unable to move, with static playing in my ears and unable to move (again) or make any sound until I was suddenly released.

When my aunt visited for graduation in May 2002 and tried to take a picture of me by Ground Zero I still had the shakes, and wouldn’t let her take a pic lest my soul was stuck there forever.

I know I’m not crazy, and the only reason I know is because on that November 2001, we walked down to Canal Street which was as far as you could go back then under the sickening smoke, and a police officer on duty for the past eight hours told me he felt the exact same thing everyday.

I just always felt that they existed, and was cool with it, but I was scared of cemeteries cuz I thought they were evil. I felt that evil spirits roamed there, Satan’s cast outs, the ones that were too fucked up for even the vaunted Ninth Circle come back to haunt their bodies and generally fuck my day up. The difference between ghosts and evil spirits of the really fucked up departed, who must still be dear to somebody? None really, but as I told you it was an irrational fear, or maybe I associated ghosts with Casper and evil spirits with real people, like Charles Manson for example, Ayatollah Khomeini or Freddy Kruger. But one day I came to realize, had an Epiphany, Instant Satori, the Moment of Clarity: no one has actually ever died in a cemetery. No one.

Well, someone must have died in a cemetery at some point. Some poor schmuck got murdered, burnt or eaten alive by devil worshipping Marilyn Manson cannibal fans or during the black masses of medieval Europe or by the witches up in Salem. But no one had just died in a cemetery, all the people buried in there were long dead, facially reconstructed, embalmed, and stuffed with straw way before they passed those gates, and found themselves 6ft under growing lilies. Hell they might have been sleepin’ with the fishes or sleepin’ with Luca Brazzi for all I care, the important thing was that if I had to be scared out of my crap by evil spirits and devil worshipping European Medievals it was NOT in a cemetery. In fact except if I wandered into the one cemetery where all the aforementioned had happened, cemeteries, grave yards, their crooked corpse like vegetal pals, under moonlit owl howling nights were the safest place in the world to be.

The only problem with that, and if you don’t yet think I’m crazy after all this you certainly will now, was that after I stopped being irrationally scared of Semetarys I started seeing many, many more ghosts every where else, and consequently started spending much more time in cemeteries.

There is often, and usually in most small towns or big cities a couple of nuts (devil worshippers and Marilyn Manson aside) who hang around tombstones and fuck the old bones out of some dead old granny, but I wasn’t one of those. And I suspect that many people accused of necrophilia (which is really fuckin’ gross by the way Marilyn) were in fact just like yours truly, cuz I can’t be the only one, cuz I’m not fuckin crazy.

And one day, I managed to get over my guilt after getting over my fear, and went up to visit my old lady, God bless her kind, generous soul, and fell asleep by her tombstone. I love you Mama…

 

I woke up to find her sittin’ next to me… Not her! Not my mother! Come on now what the fuck?! You really think this was gonna get that stupid?! Or lame?! Man even if it were true who the fuck wants to read about that?! No not her, not my mother.

Her. Stunning as to make me think I was still dreaming. That I had been dreaming my entire life so far and all my irrational fears, cuz there was just no way a woman so beautiful, exotic and full of light was real, and I was definitely awake, so there must have been something wrong with what I thought was my life but really must have been a dream in the mind of a dragon…she was just…the closest approximation is a statue I found in a temple in Nepal about a year later when I was searching her around the globe, which I will get into later…

She knelt next to me. I was too bugged out to speak, or move or do anything but stare. Stare so I could keep her right there, immobile in mind before she disappeared and returned to whichever dimension she came from, where hopefully there were no dudes, cuz if I can’t be that lucky then motherfuckers can’t either. I wanted to capture every second of what I saw, so that I could lose sight, lose all my memories and remember only her, stuck on my retina, so that she would be all I would ever see again if I had to wander around bumpin’ right into walls until I got hit by a car.

She knelt next me.

“You loved her didn’t you?”

I realized I had tears streaming down my cheeks that were definitely not for my mother. I wiped em as fast as I could.

“Yes, I, I failed her.”

I don’t know why but all my guilt seemed to fade at her sight, and I could finally talk, even though I would try my best to never disappoint her with my clumsy words.

She looked at the grave and held her hands out.

“I can feel she was an amazing woman.” She said.

“She was.” I replied.

“But you should let her go. I think you had been waiting to visit for a long time, and she was waiting for you. But you can stop now. You’ve done what you needed.”

Smiling at me the whole time with those perfect slanted eyes and tan skin that caught the moonlight in hues of golden brown.

A telepath, a hot telepath.

Then I hoped I was wrong cuz she would realize what I was thinking of her perfect breasts under her white shirt. Not big, a hand full, but I knew what they would be…perfect.

Not that it would take a telepath to follow my eyes at that very moment but she didn’t seem to mind. She just sat straight and I sat by her.

“Who?..” I started

She put a finger over my lips and shook her head. She made me talk, made me speak my soul out. The transmission was smooth and natural, she laughed at my anecdotes, giggled girlishly sometimes although I was never really good with that, all the while peering right through me with those brown eyes slanted under the moon. She cuddled into my arms, and we fell asleep together.

When I woke up the next morning, she was gone.

 

Do you think I am crazy yet? That this story is just another barrel load of poopoo? Please throw this paper out now if you do cuz it ain’t over fool, it ain’t over…

 

I didn’t see her again for six months. Six months, and I was going nuts. I slept with at least eight women in those six months, half of them might have been the undead for all I knew. Eight women, and not one of them for more than a couple of weeks before her image burned against my retina with my eyes closed in the middle of the night, and I didn’t have a picture, not a an address, not a name or alias to go by, and who was gonna believe me? Nobody. No more than you are believin’ me now.                                          

So at some point I decided to hell with the States, it blows here anyway, no one can follow my delirium. After meeting her, I had started having different connections with the ghosts for some reason, I realized I could understand what they were saying, hear their lives, and realize what was wrong with my own. They didn’t exactly talk to me, they just babbled on like drunks really, still if we gotta learn from past mistakes any soul wanderin the halls of the shiny house on the hill way past due date were prime material. Put two and two together guy! You might say. Fuck you, it still makes six.

 Some might call me a hippy, but I stopped trying to find everything my society wasn’t bringing me and couldn’t bring me on its mindless race towards self destruction in a nuclear space rocket. I had always been that way, it’ll happen when you see ghosts, but my quest went forward still. So I figured, shit, she can’t be in the States. So I did something that only months before would have sounded ludicrous, I traveled to Scandinavia, Europe the land of Black Masses and haunted cemeteries, the cold arctic midnight sun over the fjords, and believe it or not I found her there.

 

I had been three months in Oslo, searching through every old Viking rune or ruin I could find, be they real or fake. Looking all this time through old artifacts I should have realized that something was quirky but I was so blinded by the fading memory of an image that didn’t come close to what it really was that I never put two and two together.

I could have gone all the way to Finland through Sweden down to Denmark, but Norway felt right, and Scandinavia is BIG man, on a map it looks like three fingers and a thumb flickin’ a bugger, but it’s BIG, plus I suspect American maps to slightly fuck with the scale to make us look bigger. Us bigger and Russia slightly smaller…but anyway. Half the time I was drunk and desperate, and still passing out in cemeteries. It was stupid after nine months I should have given up, but she felt…close…closer than she had in six months of wandering America in my boots made for walking down the country roads. She was always there, and that’s probably why I was always drunk. But she was never really there not until I made it up north past the Arctic Circle to Thromso a College town (up in the cold believe it or not) of a hundred thousand people, but there was no arctic sun at midnight for me there, only the bitter cold and dark of the suicide prone Arctic Night.

 

Thromso held little attraction to me, it wasn’t the sights I cared about and the night six months long or not, was the last fuckin thing on my mind. And that’s when she came to me again.

 

I had found my way to the cemetery somehow. I always found my way to the cemetery somehow without maps or signs, and for all my comatose barfing drunken semi constant stupor I wasn’t stupid enough to ask anybody: “Where can I find dead bodies? Oh by the way I am not gonna rape them, burp.” I don’t know how Norwegian jails are but I know how Norway is: motherfuckin’ cold. Regardless I found my way to the cemetery, and passed the gates letting myself fall onto a grave that must have been over a million years old, and in spite of the biting cold through my North Face bubble and Arctic clothes I fell asleep.

Fell asleep and probably would have died. Died popsickle frozen, or came back in a South Park episode as the Prehistoric man of 2007. Good thing Steve Irwin passed last year, cuz I would have ended up with “aye thum eup me auss”, but that probably wouldn’t have happened as I have of yet to find proof regarding the fabled Mr Hankey, so I would have died popsickle frozen and never realized, if a warm hand, a warm naked hand, hadn’t shaken me back to consciousness.

At first I thought I was going when I saw her. I thought: “Aight, this is the moment you’ve all been waiting for, the hot telepath is taking you on a ride to eternity! Don’t get your hopes up! Ain’t no ridin’ goin’ on in the presence of the LAWD!” Gee thanks Lawd, good thing I wasn’t about to die.

I really thought it was the last conscious image of my fading frozen consciousness, and started apologizin’ to my mother for not havin’ her on my mind again when her soft slightly high and accented voice joked at me through the ice cold oxygen.

“You still haven’t let her go huh?”

“Could you let go of your mother?” I replied.

The air seemed to clear up around us, and I realized why her hand was warm. The snow never seemed to touch her, it would get within a millimeter of her skin and fade away. Not melt mind you, but fade away, one second there one second gone like a, like a ghost.

I heard the word scratch the back of my skull, tickle the tip of my tongue, bite the inside of my lip, daring, pushing to come out because it was so fuckin’ obvious.

GHOST

Obvious as a wink, obvious as well, fading snow, not quite melting snow no, fading snow. Don’t ask me why but I got an uncontrollable fit of giggles at that thinking about Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy, sorry I meant Kit Ramsey in Chubby Rain, “cuz it rained that day but was it normal rain or chubby rain?” was it normal snow or fading snow? Stupid ain’t it? Especially in the face of a woman to insanely fine, almost nauseatingly radiant to even dream of. Good thing my giddiness must have come out like so much teeth clicking about to shatter like ice.

GHOST

There it was again trying to pry it’s way out through my vocal cords and kill all the magic. Some words are power, some thoughts are power but when they become words they disappear they become a reality that never was. As when you like this girl and before even making a move you’ve told all your friends?! Dumbass!

Hold dear to the things you need to do, walk the walk don’t talk for talking, cuz there is no talking the Talk, cuz the Walk and the Talk are one and the same thing in so many shades of grey. Walk Doogie! And shut the fuck up while you’re at it. And I knew that if I said that word if I allowed my surprisingly functional brain to even wander in that direction I would eventually become a talker, talk the Low Talk destroy all the dreams that may have been destiny by giving them birth prematurely, about eight months and twenty seven days prematurely. Not this time, not now, she would be my baby, she would be my boo, in this life or the next…

GHOST!

…cuz ain’t no ridin in the presence of lawd! No suh! So I asked the next logical thing.

“What you doin’ here?”

She knelt down next to me again. I realized then that she was wearing the same light clothes, white shirt and no bra. Her nipples should have been winking at me in this weather but they weren’t and her long black hair was flowin’ backwards against the wind, not marred by the slightest bit of ice.

GHOST!!!!!!!

She knelt by me and said what was of course the logical answer.

“I’m looking for you.”

Logical yet shocking somehow, cuz although I could not, would not, say it I figured she could have just popped up in any cemetery I had been SPAing in over the past nine months but I just said what all people in love say: the exact same thing the other person says:

“I’ve been lookin’ for you too.”

“And have you found me?” she asked still smiling that light all-knowing ever-comforting smile.

I thought about it, because well she was there, but I had definitely not found her. For fuck sake I didn’t even know who I was looking for! So for as to finding her hell no.

GHOST YOU STUPID MOTHERFUCKER! GHOST!

Cuz I had definitely somehow, although quite logically I suppose fallen in love with a fabled ectoplasm, the only one unlucky enough to have actually died in a cemetery, and just as coincidentally happened to be this deep, attractive, fun, bombshell of a specter. Maybe one of the virgin sacrifices of Salem, or just an ugly chick’s ideal version of herself, not that it made a fuckin’ difference. I was in LOVE, LUV. Know what I mean dawgy? L-U-V.

 

“L’amour n’a pas de frontieres reste car je t’aime comme tu es, car je t’aimes comme tu es.”

 

So who cared who or what she was? Not yours truly, foolishly blinded and cold as fuck as I was in the Arctic night.

“No, I said, no.”

I was scared to ask the question, scared that it would reveal my thoughts still struggling to burst out by any orifice available.

GHOST GODDAMMIT! PACK YOUR SHIT AND RUN! SHE IS AS PHONY AS YOU ARE NUTS! YOU SICK BASTARD!

But I went ahead anyway.

“How do I find you?” I spat out nervous as all hell.

“Stop looking for me.” She said. “Go your own way, I’ll come around.”

I nodded my head, she sat next to me once again, and we talked again, only this time it was stronger than the first time. Things were natural, we were sharing. She never told me anything about her life but spoke her thoughts, her mind, her heart. The things that mean more than the old played out Who What Where and Why. Although the Why may have some substance to it.

How she moved how she shook her head, threw it back when she laughed if she didn’t fall back entirely through its strength, an explosion of laughter in infinite tones. I was still shivering in my North Face but the cold never touched my heart, and when I woke up the next morning, in the never ending Night she was gone…again.

 

That’s when I started Globe Trottin’. I have to capitalize I’m from Harlem. Did I mention that? Uptown baby! We get down baby! Probably omitted that, but I dare you to find a kid admitting he is scared of ghosts around 136 and Lenox, or mentioning both in the same breath, without at least a vicious: “I dare you motherfucker! I double dare you!”

So yeah I’m from Harlem and Globe Trottin, not that it matters now that the And1 cats have bombarded the market and the street hoop scene…

I walked.

Crazy right? Even crazier than all this shit.

I walked down through Norway to Sweden first, finding new old runes and ruins through the lands of fabled Beowulf and the Dragon, then sailed up the Baltic sea to Finland into Lapland.

Through Lapland to St Petersburg down to Chechnya into the Middle East, where I found much less evil people than the Traveler’s Guidebook to the Axis leads you to believe, into Pakistan, hated the place, into Kashmir, Uttor Pradesh, a quick swing by Delhi, a few temples whose names I can’t remember and up to Darjeeling and into Nepal, where after a long day of upward thigh shattering motion, I reached a small dark and quiet temple perched on top a mountain to see what I could see.

The monks at once saw how exhausted, famished and dehydrated I was, and the winter was coming on much faster at this altitude and low oxygen. The area was ripe with Maoist rebels too; good thing black people are less marketable…

I stayed there two months, trying to stick to the eight precepts (No killing, no stealing, no sex (there’s only monks duh), no foul mouthing (tough one after all day prostrating), no alcohol (I suspect a couple had a little stashed away), no ornaments, no fancy sleeping accommodations, and no eating at inappropriate times), trying if I had still been in New York, but after all these months on the road and many a windings, this was the closest to Peace I had ever reached, I felt as if I had finally freed my mind from her, and I welcomed each minute of silence. There is infinity in silence, mark my words homeboys and homegirls if you’re still with me.  Infinity once every muscle bone and fiber in your body has stopped aching. But once it has…

Strength is many things, don’t ask me to break it down for you, just accept that I know the ledge now…or am getting close to it, remember Socrates if Eurasian esoteria is too much for you.

I had almost believed I had gotten over her, or at least been able to stop and abstract her from my quest, until she “came around”, but that’s when I took a walk around the mountain bend into a small cave way out of reach…

I had to climb up to that cave, actually rock climb up to that cave not thinking for one second how the fuck I would get down (oops there goes precept #4), but it didn’t matter because two straight months of meditation went flying out the window, with her flashing back and forth through my mind all over again. I was so dizzy I could barely stand and had to lay my back against the stone wall to catch my breath before climbing, which I had never done before, not that it mattered as messed up as I was getting. I felt that if I didn’t climb that cave, may I fall and break my neck and die, I would never sleep or eat again. There was just no way around it, I had to climb that cave, otherwise I would keep coming back and back and back, I needed to get through this addiction and get to the asshole end of it.

I knew she couldn’t be there. There was no cemetery here, no graveyard where she could have found her way through the portals that they seemed to be yet, something in her, something about her was there, so I climbed.

It wasn’t high, 40 feet at worse, but by the time I reached it my fingers hands and feet were bloody and I had left stains all the way down the façade. The cave was not dark at all, and obviously not natural, although how long it must have taken it to dig it to monks stuck on a mountain I can’t and don’t wanna imagine.

It winded down into the mountain, lit on each side by candles space at ten foot intervals, until it ended in a vast grotto. There were still candles all around the circumference of the room, but it was too vast to get proper lighting so all I could make out a shape in the middle, a statue of sorts, but I couldn’t tell for sure. All I know was that my pace was racing, that the sense of her was stronger here than ever, so I walked up in the gloom to the statue…

There she was, those features, the hair, the expression of serenity in her eyes and face, well not her exactly, I mean the lady in the statue had seven eyes. One on her forehead and one in the palms of her hands and feet, but that little detail put aside it was her. And all of a sudden, the same way I had received the alcoholic’s Moment of Clarity two years earlier, the feeling of her was… gone, just…gone. I was free. Free to stop looking and move on with my life.

I can’t remember how I made it down the cliff wall. I can’t give less of a fuck. There was nothing left for me to be afraid of, nothing left for me to fear and for once I made sense to myself. Coherence, Clarity.

Night had fallen when I got out, I must have stayed there in contemplation for hours, but when I reached the Temple, I didn’t meet anybody, no one, not  a monk, not a worker, and when I got back to my room to pick up my stuff, the little I had, I saw names and dates on the wall. The names were all different; the dates were all the same. The names were all the monks I had lived with, who had fed and sheltered me. The date was fifty years earlier, and it was the same for every single one of them.

 

My tale picks up in Bangkok next. I know I could have written down plainly the obvious conclusion I drew at the obituary, but I’m sure you know exactly what I mean, and are steadily believing this less and less, or more and more as these kind of things often go. That’s the great thing about insanity, or so called insanity: its consistency. Consistent to the point where you start thinkin’: “I mean he’s nuttier than a squirrel this guy, but he seems so sure…” Are you there yet?

 

Let me tell you how much I love Bangkok, traffic sucks, pollution is off the chain, its rampant with crime. Home Sweet Home. It’s where the heart is, and mine is in the cracks on the sidewalk.

I found a job here as an English teacher. A really well paid job. College English, not one of those shady spots with crazy nuns who run your ass like Zorro. A good job, love the students, although I wish the girls would stop winking at me, I mean no not really, I love every minute of it, but damn, why they gotta look so good?! If they were buck I could brush it aside instead of losing track of what I say half the time.

Oh yeah, the good news is, relatively speaking, that I stopped seeing ghosts, and stopped passin’ out in cemeteries. Until one night when I figured I would give it a shot for old times’ sake. If I had been shrewder I would have been able to mark it as our anniversary, the first time I had met her. Met her, once upon a time when shit was all fucked up. 

So I wandered off in the middle of the night to find a cemetery. Let me tell you a little bit about Thai cemeteries. Thais don’t bury, Thais burn, so good luck finding a good old traditional burial ground full of rotting human waste and bones with long toe and finger nails. That’s one thing they should consider next time they make a shitty Zombie flick, add some serious nail length to the ghools, I don’t know about you but that on top of eating my remains (if they could catch me of the course the slow motherfuckers), I’d shit my pants…again….

So the trick was to finding a Thai-Chinese cemetery, cuz Chinese don’t burn they bury (God Bless them), and they do it nicely too: whole families, one grave. I had never seen that yet and I thought well, it’s all for the sake of tradition right? The ritual, the symbol so what the hell. I looked up my options, and went for the biggest in BKK: Huang Sui in the heart of darkness.

What a night ladies and gents (although I suppose the thugs must have given up on me by now), what a night I really wanted to make this event special. Special to me at least I couldn’t tell my friends and co workers that I was celebrating my first night in a cemetery for God knows how long and I really wanted to do it proper. I mean these people respect me of sorts. We went out bowling, Karaoke (not a big fan but this Asia what you gonna do?), more drinks, Rachada, Club Hollywood and more drinks.

When I figured I had rubbed up on enough chicks I had no intention of payin’, I jetted without a word, this kind of shit happens in clubs anyways, you always gotta expect to lose some of your crew, assuming that “nigga getting laid yo.” when he probably got sick and went home, but I just felt this growing anxiety for the first time since moving here, and I was excited, excited and three quarters of the way to blind drunk.

Huang Sui was disappointing. I got off the cab, ridiculously overpaid him and walked through the western gate, too drunk and stuck on stupid to notice someone else walking through the eastern gate right across from me. Good thing looking back, I would have probably gotten self conscious and stupid. When I stayed days in cemeteries before, I was actually fulfilling an urge, a need to get away from all the spiritual activity that made me vulnerable outside, but now I was just going through the motions for no reason, except for fun, and I knew that it didn’t feel right, like the priest whose lost all faith and still sanctifies mass after mass, all the power gone from his hand and heart. That’s why I got drunk I guess, to avoid thinkin’ of how foolish this all was, how behind me it was since the cave on the mountain. But I didn’t see the other person walk in the cemetery, so I didn’t think any of this and went on with my parody.

I said before that Huang Sui was disappointing. That’s bullshit. Huang Sui was NOT disappointing, the cemetery itself was void, but its just when I was about to leave just when I figured to hell with all this, I’ve finally grown, and not because I was taught a certain way, not because I was institutionalized into being the perfectly social XXth century negro, which I am not, I rounded a huge tomb and bumped right into her.

We both took a step back, I had not actually seen her face, there was no way she had seen mine, unless she had found me again, but it was too dark and too fast, but I knew all the same. And I knew because:

 

I met you in a cemetery in Tokyo.

 

I saw her through my own eyes for a brief instant lying asleep on a tomb, the gargantuan metropolis’s rumble bearing down upon us, and gently shaking her awake.

 

I met you in a cemetery in Ghana.

 

She was weeping over the grave of a deceased child. I picked through her mind that she had held him in his last moments because his mother had already passed. She knew that he would die in her arms, that was the one thing she thought she couldn’t do, but she wouldn’t let him take his last breath alone. She wept on my shoulder until she fell asleep.

 

I followed you to Mexico.

 

Now I was seeing through her eyes, her walk through the jungle away from a small village that had welcomed her when she was lost in the damp wilderness, delirious with fever. To find the statue of an old Olmec god, buried under ferns and moss. She had scraped the Statue clean, only to reveal my face. And when she returned to the village all the huts were empty, all the people were gone…

 

We looked at each other. Her voice fading from my mind as mine was fading from hers. She was beautiful. Beautiful with all the meaning the word can imply. Beautiful, natural and human, her hair tied up behind her head. Beautiful, solid and so small in my arms yet so sweet and supple. Beautiful.

We looked at each other. Our eyes locked for as much time as it takes a baby to take his first breath, the eternity of that first moment of pain and blissful life. Can you remember that moment?

We looked at each other.

 

“So you finally came around?” I said smiling

“Yep.” She answered. “Looks like I found you.”

 

That’s it?!

Oh don’t be pissed off reader. Don’t get mad. What more do you want? I told you before the Who, the What, the Where, the Why, all those are irrelevant, although there maybe some substance to the Why, but who cares? All these pale in comparison with the How, because that’s your life, How did it happen?

What: The event itself is the culmination of  a long list of things that are more significant than their final sum. The Yankees won the World Series, great but How?

Where: The Yankees won the World Series in the Bronx. Great but who gives a fuck?

Why: Because they played better dick! Or from the other side: Because the umpire is a dick! (Why only has substance sometimes.)

And Who: Who is she? Do you really care? Is it gonna make a difference to what I just told you if I tell you her name? Shit brother do you even know mine? You haven’t given a fuck so far so Why do you now?

 

There is substance to this Why. So I’m gonna tell you Why.

 

You wanna know now, because unless you have those meaningless landmarks you can’t label my story, you can’t put it in a safe little box, you can’t rationalize it, relate it to yourself, and that scares you.

Let go man, let go. This story happened, it really happened, whether you believe it or not. It doesn’t matter who it happened to! How tall they were, or if they preferred boxed wine over malt liquor! What is important is that it happened, and this is How it happened. Isn’t that magical enough?

 

I’ll tell you this much though.

 

She is lying in bed behind me right now as I finish typing these words. She is lying in bed behind me, resting gently on her side, her hair under her head, the lower part of the sheet falling just shy of her perfect left breast. I can tell you this dear reader, because I can see the small goose bumps on her skin at the air conditioning. I can tell you this because as soon as I’m done, as soon as I turn off the lights, I’m gonna slide under the sheets with her and cover that perfect breast with my hand and fall asleep.

I can tell you this dear reader, because I don’t care if you believe this or not.

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Ariel

Mud to water as it clears away,

Mud to water as you clean the day.

Word up.

Mud to water as it clears away,

Mud to water as you clean the day.

 

If you hear a song over the waves, you should know better, than to lean over the railing and read a love letter.

You heard a song over the waves? Shoulda been told better. Shoulda listened to your mama when you was young sailor. When you was dumb, partner.

But who does right? Wouldn’t you wanna hear her song in the middle of the night?

Damn right!

It’s sings of iodine, horse fish and coral reefs, messages in bottles, tides and sunken ships.

Drunken trips.

And memories on parchment, where an X marks the spot, but I got lost.

‘Twas dead left on my chest though, dead left on my chest. I watched her tail break the waves and drank the foam that was left. It had the taste of her breath, and the warmth of her breast. I can still feel her bite on my neck.

She stole my compas.

And led the North star south, I can still feel her song on my mouth. Now i’m parched.

And the sun beats my brow,

And at night she walks out,

And her lips taste like salt,

And her legs feel like silk,

Her eyes tear me apart,

And the morning she’s gone….

Will she shed her tail for me? 

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2013 in Uncategorized

 
 
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